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Arrangements of works were part of the compositional fabric of the nineteenth century. At its core, arranging works was practical: they could then be played by different sized ensembles, and therefore in a variety of performing situations. Arranging was also part of a Romantic tradition of showing admiration. The works on this recording transport us to a period of vast musical change. Stockhausen’s quotation encapsulates this turning point: in Mahler we hear nostalgia welded with modernism; with Wagner, we hear the sunset of Romanticism; with Zemlinsky we hear the seeds of fin-de-siècle Vienna; and in all, the extremities of emotion distilled into non-symphonic forces.
Whilst Gustav Mahler had written several songs before 1885, the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen is the first of his many song cycles. The Gesellen Lieder are grouped by theme, for which Mahler took inspiration from the Romantic trope of the lonely wanderer suffering from heartbreak. Mahler’s narrative extends the tradition set by Schubert’s Winterreise, and yet is also intensely personal. The cycle was inspired by his romance with the soprano Johanna Richter:
‘I have written a cycle of songs, six of them so far, all dedicated to her. She does not know them. What can they tell her but what she knows?…She is everything that is loveable in this world. I would shed every drop of my blood for her.’ (Gustav Mahler, 1 January 1885)
These six songs became a cycle of four. Originally written for voice and piano, the Gesellen Lieder are a perfect example of Mahler’s technique of quotation. Passages from the second and fourth songs are reconfigured in his contemporaneous First Symphony. Mahler sought to hide these connections for as long as he could—this was, until the works were being performed in the same concert in March 1896. Through a strong tonal scheme, the wayfarer’s journey is charted not only through words, but also with keys, rhythmic motifs and specific harmonic progressions.
The Gesellen Lieder also capture the special relationship between composer and arranger. To some extent, arranging involves distorting an original voice. Arnold Schoenberg’s (1874–1951) arrangement is particularly interesting given his ambivalence towards Mahler. He once confessed that he ‘did not dare to study Mahler’ for fear that his aversion might return, and yet Schoenberg’s apartment was decorated with portraits of Mahler, and Harmonielehre is dedicated to the ‘hallowed memory of Gustav’.
from notes by Mark Seow © 2014
|Mahler: Totenfeier & Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen|
Dame Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano), Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Vladimir Jurowski (conductor)
Vladimir Jurowski conducts the Orchestra of the Age of Englightenment and Sarah Connolly in Mahler's electrifying Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Totenfeier, recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall in London .» More
‘This disc shows Stephan Genz entering his fourth decade with all the light suppleness and ardour of his youthful recordings, but now with darker colo ...
‘A rich sonorous eloquence from Genz, while Vignoles musters a full range of orchestral colours. Piano accompaniment lends these works a more personal ...» More
|Mahler: Songs of Youth|
‘Janet Baker's voice is beautifully captured’ (The Monthly Guide to Recorded Music)
‘Superb. A heart-warming record’ (Penguin Stereo Record Guide)» More
|Gottwald: Choral arrangements|
Choral director, composer and musicologist, Clytus Gottwald turns his attention to complex and masterly choral arrangements of works from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.» More