The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (97): It’s late

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (97): It’s late


norman lebrecht

June 20, 2020

Mahler’s darkest hour.


  • Edgar Self says:

    It’s one of Mahler’s greatest songs. These are fine, but if yuou love it as I do, try also to hear Fischer-Dieskau on Sony with Leonard Bernstein’s magnificent piano accompaniment. The ending is thrilling beyond description.

  • E says:

    I do not know which one is most beautiful…
    (nor do I need to know). Thank you for this, and for the Emperor survey: “listen to all of them.”

  • MezzoLover says:

    Has there ever been a contralto voice more radiant, more noble and more unique than Kathleen Ferrier?

    Listening to her Um Mittennacht with Bruno Walter, recorded in May 1952 when she was suffering greatly from the radiation therapy for her cancer, I am constantly reminded of Walter’s tribute to her following her death at the tragically young age of 41:

    “The greatest thing in music in my life has been to have known Kathleen Ferrier and Gustav Mahler—in that order.”


  • YB Schragadove says:

    Both Edgar Self and Jan Kaznowski mentioned the Fischer-Dieskau with Bernstein recording…

    You can still find the LP available for sale. The Japanese-issue CD of this 1968 recording is still available and contains all 19 original songs. There was a release in the Bernstein Century series, and (as disc 2) in the Leonard Bernstein – A Portrait series (also released in the Classic Recordings series). Though this doesn’t count because it’s not complete, there was a release of Symphony #3 that contains 11 of the 19 songs as fillers.

    It’s also currently available as part of two boxed sets: “Leonard Bernstein – The Pianist”, and “This Is Leonard Bernstein – His Greatest Recordings”; each is selling for under $40 in the USA.

    Interestingly, there was also a Myto release of a live performance that Fischer-Dieskau and Bernstein gave in New York in 1968 (link below). The program presents all 19 songs albeit ordered differently than on the studio recording.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Many thanks, Y. B. Schragadove, for your helpful summary of versions of Fischer-Dieskau and Bernstein’s recordings of “Um Mitternacht” with piano. The Myto live performance is almost as good as Sony’s multi-CD box of all the songs with everal singers, that you mention, both of which I hae and love. It’s one of the great recordings.

    The song itself and Rueckert’ poem are the extraordinary, from the bleak beginning, “Um Mitternacht … hab’ ich gewacht … Kein Stern im Himmel … usw, but then from “Gott, Gott, du hast die Macht, um Mitternacht” to the grand piano postlude built on the same descending scale as the rest of the Lied,, it transcends mere greatness to immutability. What a conception, and what realisation.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Greg, Janet Baker rightly is treasured for her Mahler I have it, as is Mildred Miller, Maureen Forrester, Christa Ludwig, Schwarzkopf, Flagstad, KertinThorborg, Heinz Rehfuss, and British-Austrian baritone Konrad Jarnot, who sings unusual things like the Wesenonck Lieder and “Four Last Songs”, rare for men. His German is perfect, important in this household with several native speakers. He has yet to tackle “Frauenliebee and Leben”, which even Schwarzkopf avoided until too late. No matter, Lotte Lehmann and Ferrier will do.

    My problem with Baker, Jessye Norman and everal male singers is that I don’t get many words, and I want them. Goerne is particularly guilty, considering his reputation. Wolfgang Holzmair’s German is clear, understandable, charmingly Austrian-accented. Also the younger Pregardien. Heinz Rehfuss is a pet. Gerald Finley is another with ideal German diction. Hans Hotter a great claimer in dramatic Lieder and ballads of Loewe and Schubert. Kaufmann is very good, Wunderlich ideal. and Dietrich Henschel excellent.

    There’s a live “Resurrection” by Walter/VPO after the war with Weingartner]s veteran alto Rosette Anday that knocked my sock off. Seefried, Gueden, the list is endless. Hugues Cuenod, Aksel Schiotz, and Heddle Nash could sing any tongue with clarity. even Latin. Even ENGLISH! Marian Anderson and Alexander Kipnis couldn’t but it didn’t matter.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Hi Edgar,
      You want to hear the words?
      Check out Heinrich Schlusnus’ absolutely GLORIOUS recording of the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen made in August 1951.
      It is perfect singing, and is possibly my favorite recording of ANYTHING by Mahler.
      You’re welcome!

  • Edgar Self says:

    Chrissta Ludwig sang “Urlicht” with Chicago Syphony played the “Resurrection” symphony in late 1960s. I’m not sure who conducted. I hadn’t heard it before and got a headache trying to take it all in but remember the hush and her first words, “O Roesschen rot”.

    I wasn’t prepared for the size and address of Rosette Anday’s “Urlicht” with Bruno Walter from a live VPO 1947 concert. She was in Weingartner’s quartet for Beethoven’s Ninth in 1936 with Luisa Helletsgrueber, Georg Maikl, and Richard Mayr.

    There is a live Walter/VPO Mahler fourth with Gueden, and another with Schwarzkopf, who also sang several orchestral Lieder. Live Mahler from Walter and the VPO is a mandatory purchase. These were just after the War and on CD in tolerable sound.

    Ludwig returned around 1990 with the BPO in Bernstein’s “Jeremiah” symphony. I think Levine conducted, as Karajan had canceled. I didn’t get much out of it.