Review: Das Lied von der Erde

Posted on February 3, 2010

Gramophone “A Vivid performance from Manchester Camerata”

On a freezing Manchester evening, walking past Waterhouse’s Gothic-revival town hall, the neo-classical library, the huge iron arch of the former railway station (now a conference centre) – all manifestations of civic self-confidence – nature feels a long way away.

It isn’t of course. On a clear day, from parts of the city, you can make out the Peak District on the horizon, a brooding lure as readily accessible as the Austrian countryside around Vienna would have been for Beethoven and Mahler. Those composers’ relationships with nature provided the programmatic link for the third instalment in Manchester’s Mahler cycle on Saturday, which stepped out of the symphonic chronology to present Schoenberg’s transcription of Das Lied von der Erde.

Schoenberg founded the Vienna-based Association for Private Musical Performances in 1918. Dedicated to exploring new music but short of funds, they made a number of chamber versions of larger works, of which Das Lied was one (begun by Schoenberg, it was completed in 1983 by conductor Rainer Riehn). Listening to Manchester Camerata’s  vivid performance, conducted by Douglas Boyd, the first thing to note about the transcription is what an astonishing noise it still makes, tenor Peter Wedd’s anguished opening cry still sounding like he’s bursting through a great sonic swell.

To read the whole review by Martin Cullingford from Gramophone magazine click here.