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Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen

composer

 
‘Mahler is a universal being within whom all threads converge…past, present and future merge.’ (Karlheinz Stockhausen, 1972)

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

Recordings

Mahler: Totenfeier & Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Studio Master: SIGCD259Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Mahler: Songs
CDA67392Archive Service
Mahler: Songs of Youth
CDH55160
Gottwald: Choral arrangements
SIGCD102Download only

Details

No 1: Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht
author of text

Track 8 on CDA67392 [3'37] Archive Service
editor
arrangement made from Mahler's orchestral version
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Track 17 on CDH55160 [4'12]
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Track 2 on SIGCD259 [3'38] Download only
No 2: Ging heut' morgen über's Feld
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Track 9 on CDA67392 [4'13] Archive Service
editor
arrangement made from Mahler's orchestral version
author of text

Track 18 on CDH55160 [4'36]
author of text

Track 3 on SIGCD259 [3'47] Download only
No 3: Ich hab' ein glühend Messer
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Track 10 on CDA67392 [3'18] Archive Service
editor
arrangement made from Mahler's orchestral version
author of text

Track 19 on CDH55160 [2'58]
author of text

Track 4 on SIGCD259 [3'08] Download only
No 4: Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz
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Track 11 on CDA67392 [4'44] Archive Service
editor
arrangement made from Mahler's orchestral version
author of text

Track 20 on CDH55160 [4'44]
arranger
author of text

Track 1 on SIGCD102 [5'24] Download only
author of text

Track 5 on SIGCD259 [5'11] Download only

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