Lob des hohen Verstandes
is one of the comic gems of the set. In one of his earlier Wunderhorn
songs, Ablösung im Sommer
, Mahler had humorously portrayed the transfer of vocal responsibility from cuckoo to nightingale with the passing of spring into summer. In Lob des hohen Verstandes
the two avian songsters are in direct competition, and the chirpy C major is surely intended to suggest the pomposity of an ornithological Meistersinger
. Academic scales and trilling cadences, the airy piping of the birds and the bucking and braying of the donkey, comic repetitions (‘Ohren groß, Ohren groß’) and throat-clearing pauses all contribute to the general air of naïve humour. At the end the donkey delivers his judgement with the fatuous lack of self-doubt of the truly stupid.
from notes by Roger Vignoles © 2008