This coming Friday (May 15) marks the death of Gustav Mahler in 1911, exactly 101 years ago. Born on July 7, 1860 in eastern Bohemia, Mahler's work bridged the late 19th century Romantic tradition with the post-Romantic modernism of the early 20th century. He was known during his lifetime as an important conductor, with appointments in Vienna and the Metropolitan Opera no less. His own compositions only gained popularity after WWII, especially throughout the 50's and 60's. He was at home in symphonic compositions as well as writing for the voice. One of his most important song cycle was Das Lied von der Erde, with text from Hans Bethge's The Chinese Flute which in turn is a collection of translated Chinese poems by Li Bai and others. This cycle is a deeply emotional work that reflects Mahler's personal life at the time. Last time I featured this work on the video blog was the deeply moving Abschied. This time, I have chosen the first song, Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde, sung usually by a dramatic tenor with an upper extension. It's a song about the fleeting nature of youth, life, love, and friendship. Here is the late Ernst Haefliger in a famous recording from 1956. Haefliger senior is the father of pianist Andreas Haefliger who has performed in Toronto a number of times. Ernst Haefliger's last appearance in Toronto I believe was several performances as Speaker in Schoenberg's Gurrelieder with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra about a dozen years ago. This recording of Das Lied is 56 years old and it remains one of the best in the catalogue.
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