Skillful arrangements superbly played and recorded in glorious sound do not a great recorded performance make. There's no denying that Gerhard Müller-Hornbach is successful in his reimagined versions of two Mahler song cycles: Kindertotenlieder and Rückert Lieder, set for chamber orchestra so that they match Arnold Schoenberg's similar arrangement of the same composer's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. Müller-Hornbach's scores approximate Mahler's orchestration, but with more sharply etched lines and more piquant colors, and the effect allows even the listener long familiar with these works the opportunity to hear them again with fresh ears. Similarly, one cannot question the high quality of Müller-Hornbach's leadership of his Mutare Ensemble or the excellence of the group's performance. Though the group's parts are totally exposed, the playing is never less than exemplary, from both a technical and an interpretative standpoint. The weak link here is the singer. Though he has done fine work in the Baroque repertoire, particularly in Ton Koopman's series of Bach's cantatas, bass-baritone Klaus Mertens is over his head and sinking fast in these fin de siècle works. In addition to an often wobbly tone and a sometimes shaky vibrato, Mertens does not seem to grasp the lyrical essence of these songs, with the result that they sound precious and affected rather than heartfelt and moving. One looks forward to further recordings of these arrangements, but sung by someone else.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Lieder Eindes Fahrenden Gesellen|