Trevor Pinnock and the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble have developed an aptitude for playing chamber arrangements of orchestral music, specializing in performances of transcriptions by Arnold Schoenberg, Erwin Stein, and Alban Berg, as well as contemporary reductions by Christopher Austin, Anthony Payne, and others. Schoenberg's transcription of Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen was one of several such chamber versions he made for the Society for Private Musical Performance, which in the 1920s gave concerts of modernist music for a small circle of subscribers, protected from the hostility of hecklers and critics. In these performances, the audience could appreciate the details of the music close up, and the reductions worked especially well in Mahler's case because so much of his music already tended toward chamber writing, even in his largest orchestral scores. This album presents the four Mahler songs with Erwin Stein's arrangement of Ferruccio Busoni's Berceuse élégiaque, Christopher Austin's transcription of Alexander von Zemlinsky's Sechs Gesänge, and Richard Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, which fits in because its original chamber scale sorts well with the ensemble's numbers. The performances of baritone Gareth Brynmor John in the Mahler and mezzo-soprano Katie Bray in the Zemlinsky are especially warm and intimate in this setting, though one imagines they would be just as appealing with a full orchestra backing them. First-time listeners to these pieces are advised to seek out the original versions for proper context, but these performances are so ingratiating, this hybrid SACD is recommended for all listeners.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen|
|Sechs Gesänge, Op. 13|