- Das Lied von der Erde, for alto (or baritone), tenor & orchestra
While the Smithsonian Chamber Players and the Santa Fe Pro Musica turned in an attractive rendition of Gustav Mahler's "Symphony No. 4" on Dorian in 2003, this 2006 recording of "Das Lied von der Erde" is less appealing and strangely off-putting. The "Symphony No. 4," in Erwin Stein's arrangement, along with Arnold Schoenberg's reduction of "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen," worked surprisingly well in a chamber setting, because their lightness of tone and generally light-hearted sentiments were easily conveyed through intimate instrumentation. The same, however, cannot be said for Schoenberg's chamber version of "Das Lied von der Erde," completed in 1983 by Rainer Riehn, which seems too austere in sound and thin in texture to support the weight of the work. Granted, the earnestness of the singing and playing is commendable, and this is to the credit of tenor John Elwes, baritone Russell Braun, and director Kenneth Slowik, for providing the expressive gravitas that is required. Still, the ensemble's diminutive sound is often grating and tinny, and the dry and close-up recording tends to make things seem quite clunky; the piano and the percussion stick out too prominently, and the stark sonorities of exposed woodwinds seems a bit edgier than one might like in Mahler (but would fully expect in Schoenberg's own works of the time.) Anyone who is coming to "Das Lied" for the first time should be aware that this is not Mahler's original and should try several other fine recordings before experimenting with this historical curiosity.