Timothy W. Sparks / Ellen Williams

Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

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AllMusic Review by

Arnold Schoenberg started to transcribe Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde in 1921 in hopes it would be scheduled for a chamber orchestra concert series of the Society for Private Musical Performances. Strapped for funds, the series was dropped and the society was disbanded shortly after that year, so the arrangement was left unfinished, only to be completed by Rainer Riehn from Schoenberg's notes in the full score. Because Mahler's late orchestral writing was characteristically lean and oriented toward small groups of instruments within the larger body of the orchestra, this chamber transcription is quite compatible with the intimacy of the music, and all that is lost is the depth and weight of the full orchestra. This performance by mezzo-soprano Ellen Williams, tenor Timothy W. Sparks, and the Duraleigh Chamber Players, conducted by Scott Tilley, is faithful to the spirit of Mahler's original, though it also does justice to Schoenberg's economical rescoring by making the most of the resources. Far from stinting on sonorities, the group offers a surprisingly rich palette and gives the instrumentation the rare quality of seeming greater than the sum of its parts. However, this is an album that Mahler or Schoenberg specialists will find interesting, and it is recommended to listeners who know Das Lied von der Erde well. Newcomers to this masterpiece should explore several recordings of Mahler's original work before delving into this sparer arrangement.

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