The Song of the Earth

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Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer)
Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth

Orchestra of the Swan
Emma Curtis- contralto, Brennen Guillory- tenor, David Stout- baritone

Recorded November 19, 2010, Townsend Hall, Shipston-on-Stour
Produced by Siva Oke
Engineered by Gary Cole
Edited by Gary Cole and Simon Fox-Gal
Mastering by Simon Fox-Gal

Released May 2011
Somm Recordings (SOMMCD 0109)

About the disc

Following its release of the Erwin Stein chamber version of Mahler’s 4th Symphony, (SOMMCD 245/Orchestra of the Swan, David Curtis) SOMM has come up trumps again in this important Mahler Anniversary year, with yet one more new CD release of chamber versions of Mahler’s first and last song cycles with contralto Emma Curtis, tenor Brennen Guillory and baritone  David Stout with the excellent Orchestra of the Swan in live recordings conducted by Kenneth Woods. These are  Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen *(Arr. Schoenberg) and Das Lied von der Erde (arr. Schoenberg/Riehn).

At the end of the Great War, Vienna was a defeated city and Mahler’s disciple, Arnold Schoenberg created a Society for Private Musical Performance to revive musical life. The society did not have sufficient funds, so ensemble transcriptions of orchestral works were often made. Schoenberg reduced Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer for a concert in 1920, restoring the intimacy of the original piano version, while preserving many colours found in its later orchestral score. He also began arranging The Song of the Earth for the society in 1921, but did not progress beyond the first song, The sketches lay untouched until 1983, when the conductor Rainer Riehn completed them. Because much of Mahler’s score has the delicacy of chamber music, surprisingly little is lost in these skilled arrangements. On the contrary, both works benefit from increased transparency, intimacy and emotional impact.

 

News and Reviews

January 2012- MusicWeb International review by Dan Morgan. “‎”Indeed, elegance is a good description of Woods’ approach to these songs; he coaxes glorious sounds from his players and, thanks to a good recording and quiet audience, every nudge and nuance is easily heard. The aching loveliness of Die zwei blauen Augen has seldom been so feelingly caught, those dragging rhythms so well judged. Crowning it all is Stout’s fine-spun singing; really, this is a voice I would travel many miles to hear. I’ve added him to my list of singers to watch. And if that’s not enough, the beautifully-turned orchestral coda has a sustained, heart-stopping delicacy I’ve rarely encountered in this oft-played song… supremely well-played and well-sung”

January 2012- Everything but the Music “Best Recording of 2011- “Both performances are powerful; quite frankly I don’t find them to be the kind of thing that you pull out for listening while cooking or listening for pleasure. The Das Lied in particular commands 100% attention, but the emotional impact is pretty profound. These arrangements illustrate Mahler’s capability to be truly intimate and personal even more than the normal orchestral settings, and the disc is a welcome addition to the glut of Mahler recordings out there as something truly unique.”

December 2011- BBC Music Magazine “Music to my Ears with Mark Bebbington.” Find out why one of Britain’s greatest living pianists is listening to Song of the Earth. “The depth of detail and the clarity of the orchestra makes one hear the structure and and the original intentions of Mahler afresh.”

September 2011- Gramophone Magazine review by Ken Smith: “Kenneth Woods leads the Orchestra of the Swan on a near-symphonic scale.. a richly balanced performance that easily stands out”

September 2011- Classical Recordings Quarterly review by David Patmore: ”Woods has been making a considerable name for himself as a Mahler interpreter both in the UK and on the west coast of America, and listening to this new disc it is not hard to hear why. His handling of both works is extremely impressive, with a strong sense of atmosphere and control ”

July 2011- MusicWeb-International review from Guy Aron:“This is a really distinguished Wayfarer cycle; the performance is beautifully played and sung, and has an unerring focus on and sensitivity to the text…. [In] Der abschied…Mahler intersperses the text with extended orchestral interludes, scored with both vividness and restraint. The performance by Emma Curtis and the orchestra is one of the utmost sensitivity. The wind and string solos are all prominent, and beautifully played, as before, and Woods’ control of the ebbs and flows of the pulse is unerring….a finale that was magical in its tenderness…something that every lover of Mahler should hear.”

July 2011- Classical Source review from Peter Reed:  ”The way in which singers, players and conductor connect with the music is remarkable and very moving. Highly recommended.”

July 2011- International Record Review gives an “IRR OUTSTANDING Rating” Critic Robert Matthew-Walker calls it an “absolutely astonishing recording in many respects,”and concludes by reminding readers that “This is a most important issue, and all Mahlerians should make its acquisition an urgent necessity.”

July 2011- Classical Music Magazine: interview by Phil Sommerich, recordings editor, talking about Ken’s new Song of the Earth and Gal/Schumann discs

June 2011- Birmingham Post review by Christopher Morley. “A few evenings ago 2200 of us were pinned to our Symphony Hall seats by Simon Rattle’s interpretation with the CBSO of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. This new SOMM release brings us an entirely different account… That this works is hugely due to the wise, probing shaping of conductor Kenneth Woods, but even more so to the expert players, virtually soloists here, of the Orchestra of the Swan, recorded in live performance less than a year ago at the Townsend Hall, Shipston-on-Stour.”

June 2011- Entartete Musik review by Gavin Plumley. “the shifting temperature of Mahler’s world is painted with precise splashes of colour…Woods brilliantly captures the contrasting desolation of the second song… here, as throughout the disc, the instrumentalists are in superb form, playing with Jugendstil sweep at the close and a brittle chirpiness in ‘Von der Jugend’…”

June 2011- The Classical Review- Interview with KW. A discussion with Colin Anderson about Ken’s current recording projects.

June 2011-CD Review- Michael Tumelty/The Herald on OOTS Das Lied von der Erde. “Recently I wrote about the Orchestra Of The Swan’s superb recording of that piece. Now here they are again, on Somm, with a fabulous, dark version of Mahler’s Wayfarer Songs with baritone David Stout and an enthralling Song Of The Earth with tenor Brennan Guillory and Emma Curtis.”

June 2011- CD Review- Nottingham Post on Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde. “Contralto Emma Curtis displays ardour in Mahler’s hour-long Song Of The Earth, with Brennen Guillory in the role of tipsy tenor. This setting of poems from the Chinese has Viennese accents which the orchestra capture perfectly under Kenneth Woods, their American principal  guest conductor. Schoenberg’s delightful arrangement of Mahler’s Songs Of A Wayfarer finds baritone David Stout in magnificent voice.”

November 2010- Concert Review- Stratford-upon-Avon Herald: Orchestra of the Swan Mahler and Strauss. “Mahler of exceptional quality.”

 

Discover the Song of the Earth


Who’s playing- A complete listing of the players on the disc.

Peter Davison- Mahler seeks the Earth’s embrace This essay is from Mahler scholar and regular Vftp contributor, Peter Davison. In it, he talks about Mahler’s relationship with nature as expressed in his first and last song cycles.

Song of the Earth Why this 6 minutes of Mahler? When it seems like nothing is happening in Mahler, something big is happening.

Performer’s Perspective- DLvdE, beginnings and endings, connections and contradictions. A look at the intricate interweaving of meanings and symbols in Song of the Earth.

Performer’s Perspective- DLvdE. Why not this Mahler? Every Mahler work is more popular now that at any time in musical history… except for Song of the Earth. Why?

Performer’s Perspective- Das Lied von der Erde, a rebirth. A hint of autobiography in a universal masterpiece.

Peter Davison on Mahler and Strauss at Orchestra of the Swan. Text of Peter Davison’s inspiring pre-concert talk about bringing Mahler’s music back to life in Vienna during the difficult years after World War I

My Mahler Story Begins. Ken describes his first encounters with Mahler’s music. As it happens, it was a performance of song of the Earth.