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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67392
Recording details: January 2003
Tonstudio Teije van Geest, Sandhausen, Germany
Release date: October 2004
Total duration: 21 minutes 49 seconds

'This disc shows Stephan Genz entering his fourth decade with all the light suppleness and ardour of his youthful recordings, but now with darker colours and firmer bass ballast folding into his baritone. His intuitive musical partnership with Roger Vignoles is as sentient and perceptive as ever; and together they uncover the dark, sensual mysteries of the late-Rommantic response to the natural world' (BBC Music Magazine)

'A rich sonorous eloquence from Genz, while Vignoles musters a full range of orchestral colours. Piano accompaniment lends these works a more personal, intimate feel, turning this generous disc into a pensive, rewarding journey through the many complex moods of Mahler's inner life' (The Observer)

'Even in this golden age of Lieder singers, Stephan Genz has few rivals for easeful beauty of tone and acuteness of insight' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Stephen Genz is an excellent light baritone whose timbre reminds me sometimes of one of his teachers, Dietrich Fischer-Diskau, and whose interpretations are like Fischer-Diskau's earlier ones,before he began to over-interpret … highly recommended' (American Record Guide)

'This is an extremely enjoyable disc, which casts a lot of light on even those songs of Mahler which were written to be accompanied orchestrally … Genz is singing a cycle to which he is utterly suited, and the effect is magical' (International Record Review)

'Stephen Genz relies on subtle shading, verbal refinement and a lightness of touch to interpret a generous selection of Mahlerian masterpieces' (Classic FM Magazine)

'What surpassingly magnificent music this is, and what a superbly intelligent display of Western high-art at its most poignant from Genz and Vignoles. I just can't stop playing the disc. Endless pleasure, endless sorrow, endless beauty' (Fanfare, USA)

author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
In February 1901, under the extreme pressure of overwork, Mahler collapsed with a severe haemorrhoidal haemorrage, during which he was convinced that ‘my last hour had come’. The event was to prove a turning point: during the following summer vacation, he composed seven Rückert songs—three of the Kindertotenlieder and four of what would become known as the cycle of Rückert-Lieder.

Although the first three songs of Kindertotenlieder were composed in the same summer of 1901, with the last two following in 1904, their overall structure is unified by their key sequence. Thus the bleak D minor of the first song (only partially warmed into the major by the rising sun) returns in the storm – surely as much symbolic as real – of the finale, a storm that resolves into the D major of the final section. In the three intervening songs, Mahler underlines the shifting emotional field of the poems as they seek for understanding and consolation. Nun seh’ ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen, in deciphering the message of the children’s eyes, is full of lingering appoggiaturas (‘O Augen!’) and poignant changes of key. Wenn dein Mütterlein suggests a funeral march with Bachian overtones, but on an intimate scale that befits the domestic moment it recalls. Both these songs are in C minor. The E flat major of Oft denk’ ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen by contrast has an open-air feel to it, with a lilting melody in sixths and warmer harmonies – the sidestep to G flat major on ‘Bald werden sie wieder nach Hause gelangen!’ is especially touching.

The final song, In diesem Wetter, in diesem Braus, returns to D minor in a surging, raging tempest that is a challenge to an orchestra, never mind a pianist; significantly, the moment at which it blows itself out is signalled by the return of two little notes high above the stave, which had last been heard at the end of the first song. There follows a sublime apotheosis which, having first woven a celestial lullaby for the children, returns to earth in a long, consoling postlude for those left behind.

Sentimental tradition often ascribes the composition of Kindertotenlieder to a premonition on Mahler’s part of the tragic death of his own daughter in 1907. But he was already well acquainted with infant mortality, no fewer than eight of his siblings having died in childhood. And in his settings these poems, with their striking images of light and darkness, of regret and hope, of grief and consolation, found their perfect musical expression.

from notes by Roger Vignoles © 2004

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