Barbara Hendricks / Love Derwinger

Gustav Mahler: Lieder

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This Mahler recording by the African-American-Swedish soprano Barbara Hendricks has been issued at various times in various countries. Those encountering the 2019 release may be astonished at Hendricks (born in 1948) durable voice. It's actually only somewhat astonishing; the recordings were made in 2010 (the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Der Abschied, from Das Lied von der Erde) and 2013 (the Rückert-Lieder). Hendricks' instrument is a bit diminished in her seventh decade, but these are very satisfying recordings. Partly it's that the music fits her voice, and that's rather rare in itself. You get this news only in the track list, but the program features not the orchestral versions of the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Der Abschied, but Arnold Schoenberg's arrangements for a large chamber group, made for private performances between 1918 and 1921. The argument that Mahler's chamber arrangements miss the point is a justifiable one but try these out: they offer an interesting slice of the cloistered environment in which the Viennese musical experiments grew. The most important point is that they're ideal for Hendricks' voice at this point in her career. The voice, rather than eroding at the extremes, has holes. Hendricks is still impressive in her high register: sample the ecstatic outburst at the end of Um Mitternacht from the Rückert Lieder. Although she is still among the world's subtlest singers, the power is missing in the middle ranges in places, so the pared-down scoring suits her well. The end result is a recording that captures the inward-looking quality of Mahler's lieder, as well as the continuing enthusiasm for Hendricks for one of the composers that inspired her brilliant career.

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