Bernarda Fink sings Mahler Lieder/Harmonia Mundi

by Anthony Kershaw on May 15, 2014 · 0 comments

in Classical Recordings

Argentine mezzo soprano Bernarda Fink suggests that one cannot fully understand Mahler’s symphonies without knowing his songs. It’s an honest thesis. If you don’t know the songs, here you’ll find inspiration, harmonies and melodies that are easily recognizable from the famous symphonies. It’s wonderfully instructive to hear the musical settings so simply designed and elegantly implemented.

If you know the songs, I’m quite sure you’ll know the benchmark performances — the incredible artistry that mezzos Christa Ludwig and Janet Baker bring to these songs. Both women have recorded the works under the finest conductors, with the finest pianists, and with the greatest orchestras. So, how does Fink compare?

Fink brings the same dark pathos and heartbreak to many of the songs — even the upbeat songs have Mahler’s air of foreboding about them. But, that’s why we listen to Mahler, right? Have a good sulk, feel sorry for ourselves, and then be awoken, uplifted by the purity and beauty of the music. Fink uplifts and reminds us of the great ladies. Her German diction is excellent, pitch flawless, only in some of the longer phrases, where Ludwig and Baker seem to go on forever (Ewig), Fink reminds us she’s human. Her beauty of tone adds much to Mahler’s music. This listener never tired of her word painting, accurate dynamics and musicality. Bernarda Fink is a very worthy mezzo in the Ludwig/Baker tradition.

Bernarda Fink, mezzo soprano.

Bernarda Fink, mezzo soprano.

You’ll get Mahler songs three ways. As accompanied by piano, chamber ensemble and orchestra. The chamber group, Gustav Mahler-Ensemble accompany Fink in Arnold Schoenberg’s chamber transcription of the Lieder “eines fahrenden Gesellen.” It’s a treat to hear Mahler scrubbed down by his friend Schoenberg. Schoenberg did the same to Mahler’s massive Das Lied von der Erde. It was recorded by the Ensemble Musique Oblique conducted by Philippe Herreweghe, also on Harmonia Mundi. It’s a cracker of a performance and one of the finest recordings I’ve reviewed. A masterpiece all round. The Gustav Mahler-Ensemble accompany Fink in the same very musical way.

Anthony Spiri is Fink’s able pianist and she is joined in the Ruckert Lieder and Kindertotenleider by the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra conducted by Andrés Orozco-Estrada. The recording is wonderful, with a lovely perspective from the listening chair, outstanding imaging and a wide, deep soundstage. Fink sings these songs with love and is surrounded by musicians who obviously feel the same. Highly recommended.

Im Lenz
Ablösung im Sommer

Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
I. Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht
II. Ging heut’ morgen über’s Feld
III. Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer
IV. Die zwei blauen Augen

Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen
Nicht wiedersehen!

I. Nun will die Sonn’ so hell aufgehn
II. Nun seh’ ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen
III. Wenn dein Mütterlein
IV. Oft denk’ ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen
V. In diesem Wetter


Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft
Liebst du um Schönheit
Um Mitternacht
Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen

Playing time :1h 17mn 53s
ref. HMC902173
Release Date: 06/05/2014

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