Composer: Gustav Mahler
Performer: Violeta Urmana – contralto, Michael Schade – tenor
Orchestra: Wiener Philharmoniker
Conductor: Pierre Boulez
Number of Discs: 1 SACD-R
Bit Depth: 64(2.8 MHz/1 Bit)
Number of channels: 2.0
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Size: 1.16 GB
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde
01. Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde
02. Der Einsame im Herbst
03. Von der Jugend
04. Von der Schönheit
05. Der Trunkene im Frühling
06. Der Abschied
Pierre Boulez leads the Vienna Philharmonic in the “Song of the Earth” of Gustav Mahler, his non-symphony of songs, with mezzo Violeta Urmana and tenor Michael Schade.
A pan of the SACD Version from Classics Today
Multichannel sound adds nothing to this unremarkable performance (for Victor Carr Jr’s original review, enter Q2959 in the search box), save for perhaps a degree of artificial closeness to the voices (the best thing about the performance, granted). Horns too, in the opening song, leap out of the texture at the expense of good balance with the strings. But the real problem lies in Pierre Boulez’s incredibly dull and disinterested conducting, which keeps all of the accompaniments on the same uninflected, emotionally glacial plain.
Having heard him live, it’s now clear that tenor Michael Schade has no business attempting this music, but under studio conditions he does a good job, and Violeta Urmana sounds pretty marvelous in Der Abschied; but both deserve better than what Boulez delivers. After all, this is a symphony, and it can survive indifferent singing much more readily than anesthetized playing. Under such circumstances, sonic quality remains a largely irrelevant side issue.