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Classical

Bernarda Fink Sings Mahler Lieder

Anthony Spiri, piano, the Gustav Mahler-Ensemble

Tonkunsteler-Orchester Niederoesterrich

Andres Orozco-Estrada, conductor

[Harmonia Mundi]

Three stars

The main pleasure of this CD is in Arnold Schoenberg’s reduced arrangement of Mahler’s famous “Songs of a Wayfarer.” You hear the songs so much (you hear them too much, I sometimes think) that it’s a treat to hear them jump out at you in a new way. Schoenberg scored it for individual instruments, and with the piano, the solo violin, etc., you get a cafe sound that contrasts boldly with the tragic words of the cycle – something I think Mahler would have liked. The Slee Sinfonietta performed this arrangement a few years ago. You don’t hear it much.

Fink also sings “Songs For Dead Children.” I can listen to these only so often, and everyone sings them, so I listened to the other songs more. A few of the songs Mahler wrote to the “Knaben Wunderhorn” folk poetry are also tucked in there, and I love how she included the ghostly “Where the Beautiful Trumpets Sound.” Fink can come across with an appealing naivete that lends itself well to music like this as well as the early song “Ablosung im Sommer,” in which Mahler imitates a cuckoo. The airy “Spring Morning” is beautiful, and her beautiful soprano shapes a few of the “Rueckert Lieder” with beauty. The packaging is badly designed and it’s hard to find your way around it – otherwise, it’s a lovely set.

– Mary Kunz Goldman