American Record Guide
, September 2008
My only experience with Vladimir Jurowski's conducting was of an electrifying recording of Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony with the London Philharmonic. This video, with the same orchestra and conductor, expands our understanding of his artistry.
The initial work is Wagner's Parsifal Prelude, in such a superb rendition that I regret it was not combined with the 'Good Friday Spell'. This is a performance of great beauty and searching mysticism.
Alban Berg's Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6 is remarkably accessible despite its "first cousin" relationship to Schoenberg's more daunting Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 16. Berg calls for a huge orchestra: woodwinds in fours (plus a bass clarinet). six horns, four trumpets, four trombones, tuba, a huge and varied battery, two harps, celeste, and strings. I am not surprised that a hammer is called for in the battery. Mahler had already completed his Sixth Symphony, which calls for a hammer, and Berg almost surely knew that, but I am staggered by the size of Berg's hammer, the largest I have seen anywhere! A first rate performance.
Das Klagende Lied can be translated "Song of Lamentation" or "Song of Accusation" because the German verb klagen can mean "accuse" or "lament". Both meanings are implied here. Mahler considered this his "Opus 1". In fact, he did something rather unusual: he destroyed most of his composi¬tions, sketches, etc. that he had written before Das Klagende Lied, insuring that it was, indeed, his Opus 1. Between the completion of the work in 1880 and its first performance in February 1901 he made several revisions in the score. He completely eliminated the first of its three original sections, for reasons not quite clear. Fortunately, he did not destroy his deleted section, which I think is as beautiful and textually significant as the two remaining sections. Note to purists! In playing this recording, all the listener needs to do to respect Mahler's wishes is to skip the first part.
Jurowski made another large change in this performance that is not in the original score. He engaged a boy soprano! That seems harmless enough. After all, Mahler's own daughter, Anna, told me that she thought a boy soprano could replace the soprano in the Fourth Symphony; and some conductors, including Leonard Bernstein and Benjamin Zander, have done just. Unfortunately, the boy soprano in this recording has some difficulties with his high notes.
Excellent performances and fine camera work. Most enjoyable!