Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde, Symphonies 9 & 10 / Kurt Sanderling

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Kurt Sanderling’s three late Mahler recordings represent an outstanding testament to a first-class artist. They are decidedly “Germanic:” sober, serious, never theatrical or gratuitously showy, but this does not mean that they are not powerfully expressive or exciting. They are uniformly excellently played by the Berlin Symphony. The climax of the Ninth’s first movement, for example, is thrilling, and while Sanderling doesn’t race through the Rondo: Burleske as many other do, he captures the music’s bite and bitterness very well indeed–rather like Klemperer or Ancerl than Solti or Bernstein. The finale too isn’t dragged out to the last possible moment: the music sings with unsentimental clarity.

The same observations also characterize this superb rendition of the Deryck Cooke version of the Tenth Symphony. Sanderling prepared what is essentially his own edition, using Cooke as a basis, restoring some of the more heavily scored passages, adding extra percussion (very effectively), and generally producing a score that sounds more like Mahler than most other versions. Once again Sanderling achieves intensity through balance and rhythmic clarity. Listen to the dissonant pileup of sonority at the climax of the opening Adagio. Has it ever sounded less cluttered, but at the same time so painful? Sanderling’s use of string portamento just afterwards is also just plain right, stylistically–echt Mahler. This surely the reference recording for the Tenth Symphony, and no serious Mahlerian can afford to miss it.

Sanderling’s Das Lied von der Erde is a grossly underrated performance. The orchestral playing is superb throughout, the entire piece ideally paced. Peter Schreier is, as we all know, an excellent Lieder singer, his timbre a bit light for the opening song, but the recording is well balanced and he’s very comfortable in “Of Youth” and “The Drunkard in Spring.” Birgit Finnilä may not have the most alluring tone among the alto or mezzo soprano soloists who have taken on the part, but she sings with warmth and conviction, always sensitive to the text, and with firm sonority. Her concluding “Abschied” is very moving, if only because she shares Sanderling’s darkly honest but unsentimental approach.

So by all means do try to acquire these performances in some incarnation. The present set, prepared as a 100th birthday tribute to Sanderling, does not include the texts for Das Lied, but it does have a very well written essay by Dirk Stöve about both the music and the performances. The sonics, also, always were very good, and remain so.

-- David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: BC0300440

  • UPC: 885470004402

  • Label: Berlin Classics

  • Composer: Gustav Mahler

  • Conductor: Kurt Sanderling

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Berlin Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Birgit Finnilä, Peter Schreier