Thursday, November 22, 2012

More Digital Concert Hall – Mahler from von Otter, Kaufmann, and Abbado

I've extolled the Berliner Philharmoniker's Digital Concert Hall in other posts. It's a pay site; I'd rather be able to get these concerts on DVDs, but this service is so worth it! And this concert is one reason why:

Here is something to be thankful for: Anne Sofie von Otter and Jonas Kaufmann on stage with Claudio Abbado at the helm. What more could a fanboy ask for? This is a near-perfect performance of Das Lied von der Erde. We already know that ASvO loves singing Mahler, and JK has the perfect voice for it too. They are both consummate singer/actors, slash actor/singers. And Maestro Abbado achieves so much with relatively few podium dramatics. I love the visual feedback Maestro Abbado gives his singers. He clearly loves the human voice. Watch especially for the look he gives JK after the fifth song.

Technically, Das Lied von der Erde is Mahler’s actual ninth symphony. He was superstitious abut writing a ninth, since no major composer since Beethoven, Schubert, and Dvorak had lived long after completing their ninths. But Fate is not that easily fooled. Mahler completed an officially numbered ninth, but sadly died (at 51) before completing his official tenth. 
By the time he wrote this work, and his numbered ninth, death was very much part of his life. The final movement, called Der Abschied, or The Farewell, is as long as the first five movements combined. While all of the poetry in this "symphony" dwells on life in a somewhat negative and wistful way, this final movement is clearly saying a lot more than just "see you later."

Mahler apparently was concerned about the negativity of this work and worried that, after hearing this work, the audience might "go home and shoot themselves." If Mahler had our hindsight, he would have realized that his music, while melancholy, is so lovely that one wants to hear it again and again; so Selbstmord actually would be counterproductive. 

The texts are German translations of Chinese poetry, and one can hear the Asian influence in the music. (And note ASvO's Asian-esque outfit.) Although Mahler employs a huge orchestra, the instrumental texture is often light. The vocal lines are well-integrated into the orchestral texture, but are never overpowered by the instruments, and always allowed to shine through. 

And thank goodness for that. Jonas Kaufmann's voice is strong, baritonal and virile, and delicate when necessary. Anne Sofie von Otter sometimes sounds sopranoish, and occasionally goes full-on contralto as best suits the text. She is always stylish, thoughtful, and dramatic, and in the final song, we drift away with her as she repeats the final words added to the poem by Mahler himself: "ewig, ewig" (forever, forever.) 

Promo Video for this Mahler Concert

As mentioned above, Digital Concert Hall is a paid site. They offer various levels of commitment, from 48 hours unlimited archive viewing for about 12 bucks, to about $185 annually. (The fees are in Euros, so your results may vary!) Again, I think it's well worth it.


  1. What I want to see is Abbado and Otter doing Berg Lieder:

  2. I LOVE the Berlin Phil and the Digital Concert Hall! :D Second best to actually getting to be there live attending their performances.

    Happy Thanksgiving! :)

  3. I will be seeing ASvO live in March. I don't know what she'll be singing, and frankly it doesn't matter! :)

    1. It wouldn't matter to me either! I have only ever heard her live once, and it was fantastic.

    2. It wouldn't matter to me either! I have only ever heard her live once, and it was fantastic.

    3. Sorry about the double comment (Then again, saying ASvO is awesome twice can be considered just emphasis, I guess.)

    4. Not a problem. Since it's redundant to say "ASvO is awesome" in the first place, it always bears repeating!!


Comments are very welcome! They won't be moderated; but rude, abusive, and/or radically off-topic posts will be removed.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...