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Recordings

Mahler: Urlicht
17 Jun 2007

MAHLER: Urlicht

Mahler: Urlicht is a recording of selected songs for voice and piano from various collections of the composer’s Lieder, including his early settings from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, the later Wunderhorn Lieder that Mahler set in the 1890s in versions with both orchestral and keyboard accompaniment, and also his Rűckert-Lieder, performed by the young mezzo soprano Christianne Stotijn accompanied by Julius Drake.

Mahler: Urlicht.

Christianne Stotijn, mezzo soprano, Julius Drake, piano.

Onyx 4014 [CD]

$18.49  Click to buy

The liner notes indicate that this is the first recording made in the Menuhin Hall at Stoke D’Aberdon in the UK, which took place between 10 and 13 April 2006. While Eveline Nikkels’ comments about the Lieder are prominent in the booklet, it is unfortunate that it lacks information about the criteria for the selection and, more importantly, any background on the talented performers involved. Stotijn has much to recommend, and audience are just learning her fine talent as she takes on increasingly more roles in opera and continues to perform Lieder recitals that include the kind of repertoire found in this CD.

In “Zu Strassburg auf der Schanz” Stotijn has some moments of dramatic intensity that set Stotijn apart from others. Her approach is reminiscent of Ferrier’s effective declamation in some passages of “Von der Schőnheit” in Das Lied von der Erde. In other pieces, though, Stotijn reveals a rich contralto, as in “Der Schildwache Nachtlied,” with the full voice effectively moving in the lower register. That song also contains some remarkably lighter sounds, as Stotijn captures the drama and lyricism of that well-known song in ways that certainly exceed some conventional interpretations of the song. Yet the apparently closely placed microphone overemphasizes the vibrato that Stotijn used in this song. It begs the question of how differently the voice and performance would appear with another recording configuration.

“Nicht Wiedershen” is another song in which the expressive palette of Stotijn’s voice becomes apparent, with some of the iterations of “Ade” rendered in a fully supported half voice. With “Urlicht,” the song used as the title of this collection, Stotijn is equally effective, and the upper part of her voice is as solid in softer dynamic levels as it can be in the more boisterous passages of some of the other songs recorded here. Her fervent interpretation of “Urlicht” has a parallel in “Um Mitternacht,” which is appropriately intense. “Um Mitternacht” fits Stotijn’s voice well, and gives a fine sense of the capacity of this young singer.

Julius Drake is a fine accompanist, who gives Stotijn excellent support in “Um Mitternacht” and all the songs in this collection. The attention that characterizes some of his earlier recordings with such singers as Sophie Daneman is present in this set of Mahler’s Lieder. His pauses and careful placement of sonorities suggests a performer who knows not only the literature but the singer with whom he is working. His chamber-music approach to “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen,” with its interplay between voice and piano is highly effective. In these and other pieces, Drake does not only set the tone, but helps the singer to achieve it as he subtly brings out various nuances in the piano part.

This recording of Mahler’s Lieder should introduce Stotijn to an international audience. With a solidly conceived program of songs that fit her voice, the selection has much to recommend. She clearly has an affinity for Mahler’s music that bears hearing in additional performances of the composer’s Second Symphony, something she has done to good effect already in her career. While the literature performed on this recording is known, the freshness of interpretation that Stotijn and Drake offer here bears rehearing.

James Zychowicz

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