I’m hard at work studying Mahler’s masterpiece, Das Lied von der Erde (in Arnold Schoenberg’s reduction) for our concert with the Rose City Chamber Orchestra on February 3rd. With Mahler’s vocal music very much on my mind, and with some new video functionality on my website, I thought now might be a good time to try a new kind of series on the blog.

Over the next several days, I’m going to try creating an integrated series of blog posts and video uploads on Mahler’s great song cycle, Kindertotenlieder. The video content is from a concert I did with the wonderful Mexican baritone Jesus Suaste and the State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra that was filmed by Mexican TV.

I’m not sure what all of the posts will look like. A few years back, I came across a wonderful series of essays on Kindertotenlieder by Mahler expert Mitch Friedfeld, who has graciously given my permission to quote them here. I must admit, Mitch’s writing on the piece is lucid and nearly definitive, so I’m not at all sure I’ll be able to add much of value. In fact, I had originally thought I would simply pair my films with his essays, but I always find that things evolve in unpredictable ways on Avftp. Expect a lot of Mitch and a bit of Ken.

Studying and performing these songs was one of the most enriching and deeply transformative experiences I’ve had as a musician. It is my hope that this series might just open a couple of pairs of ears to them who’ve previously been scared off by the title. Far from being morbid, Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder is a work of true spirituality. It is a piece which deals with the most tragic of subject matter in a way that is profoundly healing.

I’d like to make a special plea that listeners to these works, both first timers and those of you who’ve known them for years, might take a moment to share your reactions to the pieces via the comment function.

Okay, roll film…

If you’re enjoying this series, you may want to visit my series on the Second Symphony, which begins here.

c. 2006 Kenneth Woods

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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3 comments on “Kindertotenlieder”

  1. Addison

    The first song was very beautifully sung and played, I thought. thank you for making it available. Was it cut off just before the ending?
    I have always avoided “Kindertotenlieder” because it is unrelievedly sad — not because I think it is morbid, as you say, but perhaps hopeless. I would contrast it with “Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen” from “Das Knaben WUnderhorn” or “Der Abschied” from “Das Lied VOn Der Erde,” which are, to me at least, much more moving. I will give the work another chance through your posts and video clips and perhaps my mind will be changed.

  2. Kenneth Woods

    Hi Addison-
    Thanks for listening and for writing in. Indeed, there was a problem with the video- we had some kind of a little time hiccup loading it. I think we have now fixed the problem and it should play all the way through on either of the links now at the bottom of the page. There is also a new YouTube link here

    I hope you’ll keep listening in- I love all the songs you’ve mentioned for many of the same reasons I love KTL.

    All best wishes


  3. Pingback: Kenneth Woods- a view from the podium » Archivio » Movement IV- Heavenly Light

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