, August 2001
"Jascha Horenstein's sensitive and passionate direction of the Kindertotenlieder (far more fluid of tempo than his later work) features some lovely wind playing from the same Berlin State Opera Orchestra, particularly in the first and third songs, made perfectly audible thanks to Marston's admirably clear transfer. You can even catch a hint of the low celesta notes at the very end, something few modern recordings manage with any consistent degree of success. Heinrich Rehkemper's aptly grave and world-weary delivery of the text suffers slightly from the voice's lack of flexibility in negotiating 'small notes' and ornaments (not that there are all that many) and from some unsteadiness of pitch in the upper register, but it's still a noble performance (listen to him aristocratically roll those r's in the last song), and it leaves a strongly positive impression. In any event, this truly is an important recording, not just for its self-evident musical accomplishments, but as the first example of Horenstein's lifelong and generally distinguished (Sixth and Seventh Symphonies aside) engagement with Mahler's music.
As for the other songs, these are only variably interesting, though Heinrich Schlusnus' gripping Der Tamboursg'sell is certainly worth hearing. Grete Stuckgold also sounds charming in her two numbers, but the big disappointment is Sarah Charles-Cahier's offerings (Urlicht and Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen), particularly as she was one of Mahler's singers in Vienna, appointed by him, and later featured in the posthumous premiere of Das Lied von der Erde under Walter in 1911. By 1930, the date of these sessions, she was clearly in decline. Still, it's undeniably useful to have all of these early Mahler recordings gathered together at Naxos' very reasonable price. Collectors of historical sound documents, Mahlerians, and fans of any of these artists will all find something to enjoy here. Others should proceed with caution and, particularly regarding the Second Symphony, with appropriately undemanding expectations. The rating applies only to the Kindertotenlieder. Technological limitations in the recording of the symphony, and the incalculable impact these may have had on the interpretation itself, place it beyond the bounds of normative comparison, both as performance and sound."