Karen Cargill - Mahler: Lieder - SA-CD.net
Performance: 4.5 stars
Sonics (Multichannel): 4.5 stars
That the Scottish mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill is an outstanding artist who possesses not only a beautiful voice but exceptional musical intelligence is clear from this excellent recital of familiar Lieder by Gustav Mahler that also includes less familiar compositions from his wife Alma.
When the 22 year old Alma Schindler married Gustav Mahler in 1902 she allowed her considerable musical talent to be subjugated by her husband in a way that would be totally unacceptable today - at least in Western society. In a letter to her written before the marriage Mahler stated " If at a time when you should be attending to household duties or fetching me something I urgently needed or if as you wrote you wish to relieve me of life's trivia - if at such a moment you were befallen by inspiration what then?" By 1910 Mahler's intransigence had abated and Alma's 'Funf Lieder' - settings of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, Heinrich Heine and others - were published. Since then another nine of her songs have appeared and been recorded.
These songs are harmonically quite advanced - closer to Berg and Alma's teacher Zemlinsky, than those of her husband. Cargill performs them with great sensitivity and communicates a keen understanding of the texts. She is accompanied beautifully by Simon Lepper whose imaginative playing is ideally matched with Cargill's fine singing.
Gustav Mahler's much recorded five 'Rückert Lieder', the 'Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen' cycle and 'Urlicht' from his Second Symphony make up the rest of this programme. One is so used to hearing these songs with orchestral accompaniment that their intimacy comes as something of a welcome surprise. This is particularly true in the case of the third of the 'Rückert Lieder', a love song for Alma that was never orchestrated by Mahler himself.
Cargill's performances of all these songs are wonderfully expressive yet refreshingly direct. Her steadiness and vocal control throughout this recital is most impressive as is her exceptionally clear diction. Again the accompaniments from Simon Lepper leave nothing to be desired.
The disc was produced and expertly recorded by Philip Hobbs last year at St. George's, Bristol a venue whose acoustic easily accommodates Karen Cargill's opulent mezzo-soprano with ease. Balance between voice and piano is ideal and the sound, apart from an occasional touch of hardness in the piano, is clear and precise.
The inclusion of full texts and translations as well as informative liner notes from Gavin Plumley put the seal on this most enjoyable release - one that can be unreservedly recommended.