Edinburgh Guide
Jerry Gregson
Music Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde (chamber version), Edinburgh 2002
Das Lied von der Erde
Usher Hall
One national newspaper started its review of this concert regretting that "they hadn't done the original with full orchestra". Very odd. This was a rare chance to hear the version prepared by Schoenberg in 1920, 9 years after Mahler's death, and completed much later by one, Rainer Riehn. Although the idea of reducing any of Mahler's mighty scores for chamber forces - or even sometimes piano duet - may seem strange, it was logical in the era before today's plentiful recorded and broadcast media.

Is it much more than a curiosity? Well, the chamber-music medium works better for the delicate chinoiserie which is characteristic of Das Lied, than it might for, say, the Eighth Symphony. Schoenberg specified thirteen instrumentalists including harmonium, apparently one of Mahler's favourite instrument (they cheated here with an extra percussionist). Once the ear is accustomed, only the prosaic sound of the piano occasionally jars; one would prefer Riehn's option of a harp in Der Abschied. Certainly, a well-filled Usher Hall - the best attendance yet for this brilliant late-evening series - testifies that a fiver is great value for a full Mahler concert in any medium; especially when it is given with such sweep, emotion, and conviction as it was by these performers.

I would make a slight exception for Jonas Kaufmann. He has a thrilling top register and an engaging platform manner and is thoroughly at home in this music. However he was a trifle too nonchalant (Singing with arms casually folded? Looked like a pose.) which meant that some lower-pitched passages did not carry. Alice Coote more than compensated with a passionate delivery of the mezzo numbers, which perfectly fit her vocal range. She saved her finest pianissimo for the heart-breaking "Ewig, ewig..." ending. Garry Walker paced the entire work admirably, with an expansiveness that belied the small instrumental scale.

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