Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mahler : Das Lied von der Erde - the legendary Merriman/Haefliger/Von Beinum one

I am not sure that I have the story utterly correct here, and doubtless someone will put me right if I err.


Van Beinum recorded Das Lied for Philips in 1957, shortly before his death. However, the recording had not been approved for release by him and so (apparently) it remained unissued until the late 1960s when it was briefly available on LP. For his singers, van Beinum had the incomparable Nan Merriman and Ernst Haefliger. These two were to re-record Das Lied only about a year later, this time for DG and in stereo. The DG recording has been highly regarded ever since, but for my money this is one of the finest recordings of Das Lied ever. 


Let's face it, the whole work hinges around the ability of conductor and alto to sustain the vast final movement, and it is here that Merriman shows herself to be not just a fine singer but – far more important – an incomparable musician. There are times where Mahler pushes the voice to do things that it cannot do beautifully – like the inexorable downward line at 'Die Schönheit dieses Abends zu genießen' – and it is here that Merriman makes it clear that she isn't there to be pretty, she is there to throw her entire resources behind the music. Maybe no-one can sing that line beautifully, but Merriman sings it with such fierce focus as to be almost terrifying.


And that's just one moment of a performance that is marked, throughout, by utter integrity from everyone. A treasure, in short.


I am grateful to Maria (happy Christmas, my dear!) for making this available as a lossless transfer, and permitting me to share it. 


And thank you to an anonymous comment for more detail on the subsequent history of the recording.


Mahler : Das Lied von der Erde - Ernst Haefliger, Nan Merriman, Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, Eduard Van Beinum, 1957


Download from Rapidshare and be astonished!

11 comments:

  1. err..
    The DGG version was conducted by Jochum - not Fricsay.
    A 'Gramophone' search readily reveals three LP issues: in 1960 - 3sides c/w Fahrenden Gesellen (Philips A 00410/11) - 1965 cheap reissue (GL5798) ditto 1980 (6570 193).

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  2. Eek. Too lazy to go upstairs and check! Now corrected.

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  3. Indeed a wonderful performance, recorded in a time when playing Mahler was not an obvious choice for a conductor.
    Van Beinum's predecessor at the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Willem Mengelberg, founded a Mahler-tradition in Amsterdam and Van Beinum took his share in preserving it.
    Das Lied was recorded from 3-6 december 1956 in the Concertgebouw and Philips released a double album A00411/A00414 L the next year. As the sleevetext is in English, I assume that the recording wasn't just for the Dutch market.
    In the early sixties, with at least two stereo-recordings available (the Jochum and the Walter) Van Beinum's version was rereleased on the budget Fontana-label, only to re-emerge in the nineties, when Philips brought out some of Van Beinum's recordings on cd.
    Listening to the original LP's this morning, a was again struck by the beautiful and carefull way of playing and singing.

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  4. Really looking forward to this Das Lied but after I downloaded and unzipped the files play as if the music is on helium. I can play other m4a files without problems. Is there a problem on your end?

    Thanks!!!!

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  5. Not that I know of. They play fine on my system, and no-one else seems to have had a problem with this recording. What are you using to play them? And what do you mean about helium - that the pitch is too high?

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  6. Nan Merriman has always been my favourite in this, ever since I heard her (with Haefliger) sing it under Maazel in the RFH around 1960. The Van Beinum recording was the first I ever possessed. I have since heard about 20 versions but still favour Ms. Merriman in the alto part (w/VB or Jochum) though Rosbaud's recording is overall my favourite for its spiritual grasp of the whole work in all its multilayered complexity.

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  7. How lucky to have heard her live! Why isn't she much more famous??

    Don't know the Rosbaud. Must go seek!

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  8. I had similar problems blissedout, but found if I try different players it was ok, in my case they play on Itunes player but not on VLC - ordinarily VLC plays everything while Itunes not much...

    (I even tried converting them and altering the speed, for a while I was listening to Haefliger as a bass and trombones as tuba, not nice!)

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  9. But! Now I hear it properly yes it is magical and thanx for the headsup Ronan!

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  10. Oh how much I have enjoyed hearing this! It has jumped straight to the top of my (short) list of Lieds to live with. Both of the singers are as good as it gets, if you ask me - Nan Merriman always reminds me of Kathleen Ferrier, both have those big but beautiful real contraltos but more importantly they really get inside the music. Fantastic to put this alongside Kath's recordings, in which I was never that happy with the tenor! Thanks so much.

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  11. AS A GREAT FAN OF THE LATE NAN MERRIMAN, I AGREE WITH EVERYTHING FAVOURABLE THAT HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT THIS FABULOUS SINGER. i HEARD HER ONCE LIVE IN THE HAGUE, IN BRAHMS ALTO RHAPSODY PLUS BEETHOVEN IX. I AM ALWAYS LOOKING IF THERE EXISTS A LIVE RECORDING OF THE BRAHMS ALTO-RHAPSODY AND ALSO OF THE KINDERTOTENLIEDER. I KNOW SHE SANG THEM SO I STILL HOPE THERE MUST BE SOME RECORDING IN A RADIO ARCHIVE SOMEWHERE IN THE WORLD! WHO CAN HELP ME? THEO

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