Mahler - Das Lied von der Erde (Bernstein)

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Gustav Mahler
Das Lied von der Erde

Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano
René Kollo, tenor

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Leonard Bernstein

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Das Lied von der Erde ("The Song of the Earth") is a composition for two voices and orchestra by the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler between 1908 and 1909. Described as a symphony when published, it comprises six songs for two singers who take turns singing the songs. Mahler specified the two singers should be a tenor and an alto, or else a tenor and a baritone if an alto is not available. Mahler composed this work following the most painful period in his life, and the songs address themes such as those of living, parting and salvation. On the centenary of Mahler's birth, the composer, conductor, and known Mahler conductor Leonard Bernstein described Das Lied von der Erde as Mahler's "Greatest symphony"

Three personal disasters befell Mahler during the summer of 1907. Political maneuvering and anti-semitism forced him to resign his post as Director of the Vienna Court Opera, his eldest daughter Maria died from scarlet fever and diphtheria, and Mahler himself was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. "With one stroke," he wrote to his friend Bruno Walter, "I have lost everything I have gained in terms of who I thought I was, and have to learn my first steps again like a newborn".

The following year (1908) saw the publication of Hans Bethge's Die chinesische Flöte, a volume of ancient Chinese poetry rendered into German. Mahler was very taken by the vision of earthly beauty and transience expressed in these verses and chose seven of the poems to set to music as Das Lied von der Erde. Mahler completed the work in 1909.

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Category: Classical
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