According those who knew him, Gustav Mahler had a lovely speaking voice, a mellow baritone that he used subtly and expressively in conversation. Since most of his songs were written with a baritone voice in mind, one could wonder if the composer used to sing his own songs, and what he might have sounded like. There's no knowing, of course, but if it were permissible to guess, he might have sounded a lot like Christian Gerhaher in this recital of Mahler's songs with pianist Gerold Huber. As he showed in his recording of Das Lied von der Erde with Kent Nagano, Gerhaher has a beautifully modulated, essentially lyrical baritone and he's clearly thought deeply about how best to render these songs. But beyond the quality of his voice, the overwhelming effect of Gerhaher's performance is deeply personal, even intimate. His hushed tone at the close of Die zwei blauen Augen, his legato line in opening of Ich atmet' einen linden Duft, his rapturous ecstasy in final bars of Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, and his aching sadness in the last chorus of Nicht wiedersehen! do not sound like an artist interpreting a song but rather like a man creating a song by completely inhabiting its words and music. A breakthrough moment like the climax of Um Mitternacht sounds like a revelation to the listener because Gerhaher sounds like he is discovering the song's implications as he sings it. Accompanied with tremendous skill and seemingly unlimited sympathy by Gerold Huber, Gerhaher has delivered one of the finest Mahler recitals in years. BMG/Sony's sound is virtually transparent.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
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