Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra of London
All Music Guide
Девять песен на тексты из немецкой народной поэтической антологии "Волшебный рог мальчика" (Des Knaben Wunderhorn), для голоса с орк., 1892-1895
Des Knaben Wunderhorn, song cycle (12) for voice & piano (or orchestra)
This collection of 10 songs is the culmination of Mahler's many settings from Das Knaben Wunderhorn (The Young Boy's Magic Horn), a collection of German Folk Poetry. They are usually performed as a set, often also including the two later Wunderhorn songs, "Revelge" (Reveille) and "Der Tambourg'sell" (The Drummer Boy), since their poetic origin and performance requirements are so similar. There is no cyclical connection or sequence to the songs - they stand alone, each having its own unique affect, scoring, and conception. Representing Mahler's mature style, the songs cover a vast range of moods and topics, from grim and ironic tragedy to fairy tales. Unlike his Wunderhorn settings for voice with piano, these are truly symphonic in scope and technique, and the composer eventually expanded several of them into symphonic movements.
"Der schildwache Nachtlied" (The Sentry's Night-song). A sentry is killed on duty while he is distracted by dreams of his sweetheart. Mahler casts the story as a ghostly dialog between the sentry and his girl, alternating between military drums and fanfares and sustained melodic passages.
"Verlor'ne Muh" (Wasted Effort). A young girl unsuccessfully attempts to seduce a boy in this charming and witty dialog. It is set as a Landler and often sung as a duet.
"Trost im Ungluck" (Solace in Sorrow). Another humorous and lively dialog between two lovers, this one is more raucous and full of military orchestral effects. It is usually sung as a duet.
"Wer hat dies Liedlien erdacht?" (Who Made Up This Little Song?). This is yet another comic love song, with the protagonist pining away for his love. The shortest and simplest of these songs, it is a Landler with a yodeling vocal line always doubled in the orchestra.
"Das irdische Leben" (Earthly Life). Here Mahler depicts a starving child who waits in vain for the grain to be harvested and milled. Cast as a chilling dialog between child and mother, the cruel inevitability of death is portrayed in the perpetual motion of the orchestra.
"Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt" (Antony of Padua's Sermon to the Fish). This is a parody on the unchanging nature of human behavior. Mahler here uses perpetual motion in the orchestra to illustrate the purposeless busyness of life.
"Rheinlegendchen" (Rhine Legend). Here is another charming Landler, in this case telling a fairy-tale about a golden ring tossed into the Rhine.
"Lied des Verfolgten im Turm" (Song of the Prisoner in the Tower). A political prisoner sings of freedom, while his lover, outside the prison, mourns him in contrasting lyrical passages.
"Wo die schonen Trompeten blasen" (Where the Beautiful Trumpets are Blowing). Mahler again used contrasting materials in this touching song about a dead soldier's ghost visiting his beloved. Muted and hushed fanfares alternate with a gentle Landler depicting the soldier and the girl, respectively.
"Lob des hohen Verstandes" (In Praise of Lofty Intellect). This is an absurd and comical song in which a donkey judges the singing of two birds. In spite of its humor, it is a biting satire of human self-importance.
- Steven Coburn (All Music Guide)
Трагический вокальный цикл на стихи Рюккерта Песни об умерших детях (Kindertotenlieder)
Kindertotenlieder, song cycle for voice & piano (or orchestra)
The heartbreaking poems that Mahler used here were written by Friedrich Ruckert out of grief after the loss of his own two children. Although one of Mahler's own daughters died three years after their completion, it is absurd to make any connection. The songs were more likely set in memory of Mahler's beloved younger brother (lost in childhood), who shared the same name as Ruckert's son - Ernst.
These songs, unconditionally specified as a set to be performed together, are a far cry from the Wunderhorn songs of the previous decade. In anticipation of his later style, Mahler reduced the orchestral texture to thin, solo, contrapuntal lines, only rarely combining for dynamic effect. The voice part is no longer the scalar and triadic folk style, but now has become part of the contrapuntal fabric. The range of emotion is extreme, as before, but now it is distilled, becoming all the more poignant and effective. The entire cycle is almost unremitting in its anguish and darkness, relieved only twice by way of consolation.
"Nun will die Sonn' so hell aufgeh'n" (Now Will the Sun Rise as Brightly). This deeply moving and bleak song tells of a sunrise that can no longer bring comfort. The barren and chromatic lines perfectly capture stunned grief, the interplay between minor and major offers only irony.
"Nun seh'ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen" (Now I See Well Why Such Dark Flames). Here, the grief-stricken father remembers his children's eyes as premonitions of their death. The bitter sadness of the opening is offset by the gentle consolation of the lush accompaniment of the central phrase, only to return to the opening music at the end.
"Wenn dein Mutterlein" (When Your Dear Mother). Set in an ironic imitation of folk song style, the large intervals and repetitive patterns of the vocal line portray the painful memories that habitual actions provoke.
"Oft denk' ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen" (Often I Think They Have Only Gone Out). Mahler uses the subtle interplay between major and minor to illustrate the illusion that the children have only gone out for a walk. The final stanza, set to stunningly beautiful music, offers the consolation that they have gone to another place, where they will one day be reunited with their parents.
"In diesem Wetter, in diesem Braus" (In This Weather, in This Torrent). Here in the final song, the father recalls the storm on the day of the funeral, set to the only fast and aggressive music of the set. This turbulence gives way in the final stanza to the realization that the children have found rest, set to the only really gentle music in the entire cycle.
-Steven Coburn (All Music Guide)