Karen Cargill - Mahler: Lieder - Fanfare
The concept of this album seems simple enough: perform the music of both Alma and Gustav Mahler on the same program. Certainly, the high quality of the Alma Mahler songs chosen for this disc mean they can speak for themselves. But I personally feel that we have more than enough recordings of the Rückert Lieder and Songs of a Wayfarer to last us a lifetime, and although Karen Cargill has one of the creamiest mezzo voices I've heard in a long time.
Indeed, even m Alma Mahler's songs, Cargill gives us what I call a generalized interpretation. Her voice sounds quiet and reflective when singing of Die stille Stadt (The Silent City-), louder and a bit energetic in In meines Vaters Garden (In my Father's Garden), and her way with legato phrases and caressing of the musical line is persuasive, but all in all I found when reading the words that Cargill presents us with a generalized reading. It is more like the interpretation of an opera aria: good, but geared more towards an overall mood than of "telling a story-." It is the kind of Lieder singing that was very much in vogue back m the 1910s and 20s. Now, since these songs date from the early 20th century; some readers may find this good enough, but I felt these performances were too much "from the outside" and not from the inside.
Mind you, this is a bit of splitting hairs, but after having been exposed to the much greater artistry of soprano Raquel Andueza in a series of three discs devoted to early music (and if there is any repertoire for singers that can sound stodgy or generalized, that is it), I found Cargill's less word-specific readmgs merely good, and I preferred to hear great. Cargill brmgs that same sense of generalization to her performances of the Gustav Mahler Lieder, with similarly generic results. Nor is it only a past master like Janet Baker who does the Riickert Lieder better than Cargill; so too do Elfride Trotschel m Nos. 1 and 2 and Christa Ludwig in Nos. 3 and 5.
Perhaps, however, she would have responded more energetically if we had a pianist who played the accompaniments with greater interest and urgency. Absolutely nothing in Simon Lepper's piamsm led me to think of him as a first-rate accompanist; he doesn't even bmd phrases well, but merely proceeds from note to note. This particularly shows up in the Songs of a Wayfarer, where Lepper does nothing much with the music. A second-year conservatory student could play it this well.The sound quality; however, is stupendous, round, rich, and clear.