"If you only want one recording of Mahler's wonderful Das Lied von der Erde, this recording will last for a lifetime. I want to emphasize two points for this view.
First, on this record, Rafael Kubelik is conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Kubelik made this orchestra to become one of the finest Mahler orchestras in the sixties, thus contributing to the Mahler-boom. Kubelik's Mahler was once discarded as lightweight, especially beside Bernstein. Today the opinion is rather that Kubelik provided one of the best representations of the truly Bohemian Mahler while Bernstein's Mahler is too much of Bernstein and less of Mahler. Anyway, it is a marvellous orchestra playing on this disc under a classic Mahler conductor, caught live in their own Herkulessaal in Munich with its excellent acoustics. Sonic quality is also excellent. And the audience is spellbound, completely silent.
Second, the soloists are the very best for this work. The Austrian tenor Waldemar Kmentt is perhaps not the most famous tenor, but he was in his prime during the sixties and early seventies. And his contribution on this record must be compared with Wunderlich and Patzak, as the finest interpreters of tenor part of this work. Few can match the desperate tone he produces in "Das Trinklied". And he is as delicate and charming as Wunderlich is in "Der Trunkene im Fruhling" and "Von Der Jugend". Janet Baker, on the other hand, needs no defence in this context. Together with Christa Ludwig, she is the best voice for Das Lied von der Erde. We have her voice in recordings of this work with Haitink, Kempe, and Leppard, but the evening of the present recording was indeed a special occasion. Her performance is just outstanding, especially of the final movement.
To sum up: A remarkable recording, spaciously recorded, and a great event. Strongly and warmly recommended. "
The BEST Lied von der Erde ever. Period.
C. Escamilla | 11/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is no denying that there are some fantastic recordings of this work available. There is also no denying that some less than stellar performances feature many great and memorable moments. But there can be no question that this recording of Das Lied von der Erde is absolutely the very best.
Kubelik, who never recorded the work in the studio, is alive to details and nuances that even Bruno Walter, perhaps the score's greatest conductor, misses. Listen, for example in Der Abschied around the three minute mark as the mezzo sings "O sieh...", to the way Kubelik brings the clarinets to the foreground, matching the mezzo line with a beautiful harmonization that too many conductors miss. Or try Kubelik's having the mandolin tremolo at the end of the same movement in order to make its part resonate more. He really achieves some great and magical moments in this tricky and complex score.
Waldemar Kmentt holds his own pretty well. He's certainly not a match for Wunderlich or Peter Schrier who, in my opinion, gives the greatest performance of the tenor songs, but Kmentt is still very good. He copes admirably well with the first song and its incredibly treacherous range. He also lightens his voice beautifully for the third song. But why in the fifth song, "The Drunkard in Spring", does he not lighten his voice again for the middle, dream section?! This is a glaring error, and it's quite possibly the only major problem with this performance.
The reason it is so crucial for Kmentt to lighten his voice comes in his partner: Janet Baker. Never, including her own other performances, has a mezzo sung the three songs in this work as well as Janet Baker did on this occasion. The examples of quite possibly the finest vocal artistry ever committed to disc are too numerous to mention, but suffice it to say that this performance should serve as a lesson to all singers as to how to interpret a piece of music. She is simply the best, and her performance will leave you speechless.
This recording is simply not to be missed, and it deserves a place of honor on every classical music fan's shelf. It will keep you coming back for a lifetime. Very highly recommended!"
Ditto - a great "DLvdE"
B. Guerrero | 01/16/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yep, this is a recording that pretty much has everything going for it. I don't love Kmentt nearly as much as Fritz Wunderlich (Klemperer), but he's far better than most, in dealing with Mahler's grueling tenor writing - juxtaposed against some mighty Wagnerian orchestral writing in the first song. Janet Baker is truly at the top of her game here. Kubelik doesn't put a foot wrong anyplace either. The sonics are very good, but certainly not up to the latest digital standards. Still, when everything else is so right, slightly dated sonics is just isn't a problem. All aspects considered, this recording of "DLvdE" is right up there with the best of them."
Great performance but wrong pitch?
Jim Bklyn | Brooklyn, NY United States | 12/02/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is indeed a wonderful performance, as many have written. But could someone confirm whether the pitch as reproduced on this CD edition is correct? I'm pretty sure it's too high. In comparing Janet Baker's voice here as against her other recordings of the same work, and in checking other Waldemar Kmentt records as well, the pitch of the entire recording consistently throughout seems significantly sharp, giving the whole performance an unnaturally shrill, thin sound and distorting the weight, texture, and tone color of the singers' voices. They were singing the right pitch in the hall, but the playback is too fast, making everything sound too high. Of course the singers are not sped up to the chipmunk level, by any means, but they're not spot-on either. Those collectors with a variable-speed CD player can correct the pitch down to the normal, true key of the original performance and hear what this splendid occasion actually sounded like."
Baker and Kubelik provide spiritual intensity
Ralph Moore | Bishop's Stortford, UK | 10/08/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many consider this the finest example of Janet Baker's art ever committed to disc and I'm not sure that I would argue with that verdict: everything she does is miraculously judged and controlled, her mezza voce is meltingly beautiful, the voice opens up thrillingly when required and she inflects the text with her usual sensitivity. By all accounts and in combination with my own listening experience, this is certainly the finest of her several recordiings of this work, even without the benefit of re-takes, this being a wondrous live performance of extraordinary intensity. Combine her artistry with the subtlety of that great Mahlerian Rafael Kubelik and you are bound to have a winner, particularly as the playing of the Bayerischen Rundfunks is miraculous: they sing out as one great voice with beautiful tuning, responding with unfailing subtlety to Kubelik's gradations and nuances. I have rarely heard a more rapt conclusion to that magical final movement - and the audience is virtually silent throughout.
While I might have hoped for, and even expected, this level of achievement from two such distinguished artists, the pleasant surprise for me is the performance of Waldemar Kmentt. I knew him to be an accomplished tenor but had not realised how suited was his voice to this music. Any strain is within the tolerance you would permit for such demanding songs and he makes the most of the resonance of his light, bright sound - whereas, as much as I love the Klemperer recording, we all know that Fritz Wunderlich had a little help from the recording engineers to ensure that his voice prevailed over the denser moments of Mahler's orchestration. Kmentt is clearly able to do this live and in one take.
So this goes to the top of my favourite accounts, alongside Klemperer and Walter (although I care less for the latter's tenor, Julius Patzak). Fans of both Baker and Kubelik must not hesitate; this is a wonderful recording, in excellent sound given its age and provenance."