Commercially Available CDs

Gustav Mahler (arr. Schönberg/Stein): Symphony No. 4; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer)

The Smithsonian Chamber Players and Santa Fe Pro Musica; Kenneth Slowik, conductor, with Christine Brandes, soprano, and Susan Platts, mezzo-soprano


The present recording brings together two great early works of Gustav Mahler in chamber orchestra arrangements made for use by Arnold Schönberg’s Society for Private Musical Performances, played by an ensemble whose interpretations owe much to those of Willem Mengelberg, the celebrated conductor of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra and Mahler’s most fervent advocate for more than a quarter century. A warning to the faint-hearted may be in order: Mengelberg’s style clashes, at times violently, with the “objectivist” stance championed by Toscanini, and adopted generally in his wake. According to Mengelberg, and according to the longstanding tradition of which he was among the last exponents, “the performer must help the creator.” In our age, in which the science of musicology has elevated the Urtext edition to a position of veneration, it is sobering to realize that embracing Mengelberg’s statement that “faithfulness to the notes is a recent invention” must be taken, at least for the repertoire with which he was closely associated, as perhaps the most “authentic” stance possible to adopt, and one which illustrates Mahler’s own dictum: “what is most important in music is not to be found in the printed notes.”

                                                                          —from Kenneth Slowik’s liner notes

Listen to “Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht” (“When My Sweatheart Has Her Wedding”) from Songs of a Wayfarer

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What makes these transcriptions so interesting today is that the originals have become so easy to find. Yet these recordings, led by Kenneth Slowik, are exceptional in other ways. His interpretation is alive, insightful and unlike any other. If you care about Mahler, make a point of hearing this disc, no matter how many Fourths are already on your shelves. And I hope we will soon need more shelf space for additional CDs of Slowik's Mahler, some of it with full-sized orchestras. Mahler's music is no longer rare, but performances of such freshness, commitment and depth are always in short supply.

On this album: 

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

[1]-[4] Symphony No. 4 in G Major, arranged for chamber ensemble by Erwin Stein (1921)
[5]–[8] Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer), arranged for chamber ensemble by Arnold Schönberg (1920)