Friday Mahler

So, I amused myself for a while yesterday afternoon listening to a concert, the one from the BBC that included Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony and 12 of Mahler’s songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. The orchestra was the LSO under Manfred Honeck, and the soloists were Dorothea Röschmann and Ian Bostridge.

I am not what you would call an expert on Mahler’s songs, and neither did I have what you would call a program that would indicate to me which one was which, but I recognized a few, and some of the others I was able to figure out via a little googling. (So I guess in a sense, what I did was listen to a concert, but what I also did was take a kind of extended Mahler-themed German listening-comprehension exam.)

The parts of the twelve Mahler songs that I liked best were, first of all “Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredicht” / “St. Anthony’s Sermon to the Fish” (performed here by Ian Bostridge). There are all these little swirly-sounding patterns in the strings, which later get into the woodwinds, and it’s really kind of great.

I also enjoyed “Wer hat dies Leidlein erdacht?” / “Who thought up this little song?” (performed by Röschmann). The orchestral part has all these little turns and circles in it that sound a little bit like like Vitellia’s part at 00.32 here in “deh, se piacer me vuoi”. “Lob des Hohen Verstands” was also highly entertaining – I love the “ah-jah! ah-jah!” bit.

But for me the best part of this performance was the last song, “Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen.” The last time I heard this song it was being performed by Röschmann alone with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra – here, the text is divided between soprano and tenor and it works wonderfully. Röschmann hits this perfect feeling of quietness and intensity with the opening lines — all through this, I was reminded again at how good she is at projecting the feel and atmosphere of a song (this is evident in “Das Irdische Leben” too). Bostridge sounds beautifully tender when he comes in at “das ist der Herzallerliebste dein.” If I didn’t like his voice already, this song would certainly convert me.

But this performance does leave us with one unresolved question. The radio announcer lets us know that Frau Röschmann was wearing a burgundy-colored velvet dress. This is not the kind of thing I normally take much notice of. I mean, she could give a concert in jeans, flip-flops and a Van Halen t-shirt and that would be fine with me. But what the radio announcer neglected to mention was what Mr. Bostridge was wearing. You kind of have to wonder. Was he also wearing burgundy velvet? Or a Van Halen t-shirt? Or nothing at all? Inquiring minds want to know.*

You can listen to the concert here.

*Inquiring minds don’t actually want to know.