For 25 years, the village of Dobbiaco in the Italian Tyrol has been celebrating Gustav Mahler Music Weeks. Why? Because back when the Tyrol was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Dobbiaco was named Toblach, Mahler spent his final three summer vacations there composing first Das Lied von der Erde and then his Ninth and finally his Tenth symphonies. These recordings on Italy's Real Sound label preserve two concerts from the July 2001 festival: one dedicated to Mahler's Ninth and the other given to a variety of works.
The disc with the Ninth performed by Roberto Paternostro leading the Bundesjugendorchester is an unqualified success. Paternostro is a talented conductor, a dedicated Mahler interpreter, and an extremely ambitious man and he gets the teenage musicians of the Bundesjugendorchester to play far better than one would have imagined possible. Paternostro's Ninth is impetuous, passionate, and absolutely unwilling to yield to inevitable death.
The disc with a variety of works is a qualified success. Pianist Elena Kuschnerova's transcriptions and performances of two of Mahler's Wunderhorn songs is imaginative and persuasive. Conductor Frieder Bernius and the Streicher-Akademie Bozen's performance of Strauss' Metamorphosen is monumental and fearsome. But the Quartetto Prometeo's performance of Hubert Stuppner's Eine Mahler-Soiree auf der Titanic am 14. April 1912 is something else altogether. The premise is that a string quartet on the Titanic might have played a pastiche of tunes by the late Austrian composer in his honor on the inaugural voyage of the ill-fated ocean liner. With movements entitled "Kindentotenlieder mit Tango" and "Flamenico macabre," for some listeners, Stuppner's Mahler-Soiree will be an honest homage; for others, it will be an exercise in vulgarity. Caveat emptor. Real Sound's sound is a bit distant and a lot loud.