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I wouldn't say the Kubelík Salzburg 1959 concert with Waldemar Kmentt and Hilde Rössel-Majdan is a stunner and a formidable challenger to the best recordings, yet out of the mono recordings it has grown on me significantly. HRM was the reason I bought it, heavier and more filling than Maureen Forrester, but Kubelík and the WPO make the piece soar as well. Kmentt's heroicism is worth the listen but certainly a burden in the ugliest sense. Opposite to lads like Richard Lewis, Heppner or Wunderlich.
 

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Horenstein would be my first choice for those special moments when you don't care about vocal or orchestral perfection but want a recording that conveys the most intense emotions.

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When I want a great orchestra and conductor doing Das Lied, I take a safe choice like Jochum, Bernstein, Kubelik - or of course Klemperer. But compared to Horenstein, I find Klemperer a tad too restrained. His orchestra and soloists are superior of course, but what Hogson does for Horenstein is a perfect example of a vocalist transcending her own limitations.
Another issue with Klemperer is that his recording was patched together from two very far apart recording sessions, if I remember correctly the Ludwig parts were done when Wunderlich was already dead... And somehow that contributes to the slight artificial feel of the recording, it never becomes a fully convincing unity to me.

In the 2 males versions there's one that stands out for me, Kletzki. I find F-D much more convincing singing for Kletzki than for Bernstein. That passage in the last song, where he sings "O Schönheit! O ewigen Liebens - Lebenstrunkne Welt!" - it's so breathtakingly beautiful, not even Ludwig or Ferrier can match the intensity of that moment.
In the Bernstein version F-D sounds not as communicative, at least to my ears. Maybe he felt restrained, I don't know the circumstances of the recording but I can imagine Bernstein imposing his ideas about of the work more than Kletzki, who was perhaps a bit more sympathetic to his singers.

Then there's Sanderling, who has perhaps the ideal concept of Das Lied, but is held back by his soloists, specially Finnilä. I don't like her voice at all in this repertoire.

There's the Herreweghe recording too, which uses a chamber orchestra arrangement. Well intended, but it's like the singers are uncomfortable with the more intimate setting, are afraid to let their voices dominate the accompaniment, with the result that everything feels dull and muted.
 

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Should I grab two, it would probably be Bernstein-Kollo-Ludwig,IsraelPO/cbs-sony, and Klemperer-Ludwig-Wunderlich/emi, a bit less temperamental.

If I see Kubelik/audite, I'll buy it - haven't heard it.

And Jiracek/obscure historical LP/provincial orchestra, have heard some of it (it's on youtube, and often they play like it's their last concert forever, like in Der Abschied) - intense.
It does seem to be a genuine Jiracek recording (?):
 

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I cannot get into the two male voices version.
I keep the Kletzki around for the time being (don't like Dickie much, and despite Fi-Di in his prime, it somehow sounds "wrong" to me), but got rid of Rattle/Seifert/Hampson (this one had no redeeming features for me). I have heard at some stage (that does not mean I have precise recollections of all of them), Walter with Ferrier, Walter/Miller/Haefliger, Van Beinum, Jochum, Klemperer/Wunderlich, the older Klemperer (Dermota?), Kleiber (got rid of in the early 2000s because the sound was too bad but supposedly there has been a more recent issue in better sound), Kubelik, Bertini, Herreweghe (Schoenberg, I was positively surprised by this but it's a long time I heard it).

AFAIR of the ones I heard no tenor came close to Wunderlich by a huge margin (mostly in the first song, the other tenor songs don't matter much for me anyway). I'd have to relisten to Heppner with Bertini but I seem to remember that I was rather disappointed by this because when I bought it it was rare and I ordered a comparably used copy from France or so and overall it hardly seemed worth that extra effort. This makes Klemperer/Wunderlich/Ludwig my favorite because it is very good overall and extraordinary in Wunderlich. The main weakness is a bit of lumbering in the middle section of Von der Schönheit and maybe (but I like her) a bit of coolness overall from Ludwig. Cannot be precise about the live Kubelik but I remember it as deserving its reputation with Kmentt at least not offensive, and the overall impression very moving.
 

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Walter/Miller/Haefliger/NYPO
Reiner/Forrester/Lewis/Chicago

Forrester sounds great, esp in "Der Abschied"....I like Haefliger a bit better than Lewis, but both are good...
The orchestra work is fantastic - not to be missed - great solo work.
The big oboe solos are special [Autumn, Farewell] - both recordings - H. Gomberg [NYPO] and R, Still[CSO]

both conductors really excel - Der Abschied is remarkable in both cases - Walter produces the most powerful, bleak interlude; Reiner gets Forrester to sing with an almost ethereal quality for some passages....the Final "Ewigs" are just wrenching....

[PS - I lost my wife to CA c10 years ago - I've only listened to "Abschied" once since then....beautiful beyond words, but really tough going for me...]
 

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The tenor is usually the problematic point.
But in my recollection Kmentt ca. 1970 with Baker/Kubelik (Audite) is quite good, so that this was overall a favorite after Wunderlich/Ludwig/Klemperer.
Among the more recent accounts (and even in comparison with the older ones) I found Toby Spence (for Nezet-Seguin) a very apt tenor for this piece.
 

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I wouldn't say the Kubelík Salzburg 1959 concert with Waldemar Kmentt and Hilde Rössel-Majdan is a stunner and a formidable challenger to the best recordings, yet out of the mono recordings it has grown on me significantly. HRM was the reason I bought it, heavier and more filling than Maureen Forrester, but Kubelík and the WPO make the piece soar as well. Kmentt's heroicism is worth the listen but certainly a burden in the ugliest sense. Opposite to lads like Richard Lewis, Heppner or Wunderlich.
There is of course a much better Kubelik performances available, one that is without doubt amongst the best performances ever recorded, and my personal favourite. Its' a live recording from Munich in 1970 and the sound is very good indeed. Waldemar Kmentt is again the tenor soloist and Dame Janet Baker outdoes all her other recorded performances. I find the ending totaly and utterly emotionally shattering.

 

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I've never heard a version of Das Lied that I'm entirely happy with. Miller/Haefliger/Walter/NY Phil probably is still my overall favorite, though Urmana/Schade/Boulez/Vienna Phil ranks high. I suppose Walter and Boulez are my two favorite Mahler conductors. I grew up with Merriman/Haefliger/Van Beinum/ACO, and I wish Van Beinum had made more than four Mahler recordings, as he'd be a favorite too.

I need to check out some more recent versions, so thanks OP et al.
 

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I've never heard a version of Das Lied that I'm entirely happy with. Miller/Haefliger/Walter/NY Phil probably is still my overall favorite, though Urmana/Schade/Boulez/Vienna Phil ranks high. I suppose Walter and Boulez are my two favorite Mahler conductors. I grew up with Merriman/Haefliger/Van Beinum/ACO, and I wish Van Beinum had made more than four Mahler recordings, as he'd be a favorite too.
Van Beinum suffers from dry mono in my recollection and the singers are good but not great IMO (in overall much better sound with Jochum, I think).

What don't you like about Klemperer/Wunderlich/Ludwig and have you heard the live Kubelik/Kmentt/Baker just mentioned in #70.
 

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Van Beinum suffers from dry mono in my recollection and the singers are good but not great IMO (in overall much better sound with Jochum, I think).

What don't you like about Klemperer/Wunderlich/Ludwig and have you heard the live Kubelik/Kmentt/Baker just mentioned in #70.
I'm a big fan of Wunderlich and Kubelik but not Klemperer after his brain surgery and not Ludwig or Baker, especially for this music. And very much not Ferrier, especially after her cancer-related health issues became a factor. You are right that the later (circa 1963) stereo Jochum version has better overall sound than the circa 1957 mono Van Beinum version. But for the latter, you really need the original vinyl LP and not the CD reissue. I find many of the 50s mono recordings were poorly served by the CD reissues.

As for the soloists, I'm a big fan of Ernst Haefliger, a little less so Nan Merriman, but she is good, and still in her youthful and healthy prime. I think she retired early to raise a family, which was very common for women in those pre-gender equality days.

As with a lot of Mahler, I like a cooler, more introspective Das Lied that isn't too overwrought and melodramatic. The music establishes the drama without being pushed and pulled excessively. I get that from Walter and Boulez.
 

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I'm a big fan of Wunderlich and Kubelik but not Klemperer after his brain surgery and not Ludwig or Baker, especially for this music. And very much not Ferrier, especially after her cancer-related health issues became a factor. You are right that the later (circa 1963) stereo Jochum version has better overall sound than the circa 1957 mono Van Beinum version. But for the latter, you really need the original vinyl LP and not the CD reissue. I find many of the 50s mono recordings were poorly served by the CD reissues.

As for the soloists, I'm a big fan of Ernst Haefliger, a little less so Nan Merriman, but she is good, and still in her youthful and healthy prime. I think she retired early to raise a family, which was very common for women in those pre-gender equality days.

As with a lot of Mahler, I like a cooler, more introspective Das Lied that isn't too overwrought and melodramatic. The music establishes the drama without being pushed and pulled excessively. I get that from Walter and Boulez.
Are you suggesting that Ferrier's cancer-related health issues had a detrimental effect on her vocal performances? If so, that's the first I've heard of it. As for Baker and Ludwig, I think they were both at their finest in Mahler, as indeed was Ferrier. All three are amongst the greatest Mahler interpreters of the twentieth century.

I know you usually tend to go against the pervading opinion though.
 

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Are you suggesting that Ferrier's cancer-related health issues had a detrimental effect on her vocal performances? If so, that's the first I've heard of it. As for Baker and Ludwig, I think they were both at their finest in Mahler, as indeed was Ferrier. All three are amongst the greatest Mahler interpreters of the twentieth century.

I know you usually tend to go against the pervading opinion though.
My opinions have nothing to do with what "pervading opinion" is or isn't here, but are as developed in up to 55 years of constant listening. Why do I have to worry about whether my opinions jibe with those of others here or elsewhere? Why does whatever the "pervading opinion" is here matter at all?

And anyway, are the Mahler recordings of Bruno Walter and Pierre Boulez considered second rate here or elsewhere? Walter was a student and disciple of Mahler himself. Boulez as a conductor is well-known for his interpretations of Mahler, as well as Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky. His own music may be controversial in the "pervading opinion" here, but I don't see why that is relevant. I notice both recordings I cited were cited as favorites by other posters before me. Again, if that matters.

I happen to be a fan of Van Beinum. I think If he hadn't passed away at a relatively early age he likely would have made a lot more stereo commercial recordings (I believe he only made one or two) and he would have been a much bigger name. I think there are other Van Beinum fans here. Once again, if that matters.

Finally, I remember reading that Ferrier's illness did affect her later recordings. But my opinion is based on the recordings I have heard, many of which I own.

Edit: I never thought I would cite David Hurwitz, whom I despise, for support on any topic, but here is what he says about Ferrier's Das Lied, at least the recording I know:

Bruno Walter recorded Das Lied three times, and the most famous recording is his second one, recorded in the 1950s for London and featuring Kathleen Ferrier and Julius Patzak. That record has enormous sentimental value for the British, because they can't get enough of Ferrier, who died tragically of cancer in 1953 at the age of 41. But the fact is, she sounds terrible on the recording, and Patzak was well past his prime, too. Also, the postwar Vienna Philharmonic was no match for the New York Philharmonic in performing this music; the New York orchestra has an even more authentic Mahlerian pedigree than do the Viennese. This final stereo performance, then-- Walter's last thoughts on the piece that he premiered 50 years earlier--is the one to own.

So he prefers the Walter version I happen to like. Sigh. Fortunately, Ferrier lived (just) long enough to record a fair variety of repertoire, so all can make up their own minds.
 

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[...]

I happen to be a fan of Van Beinum. I think If he hadn't passed away at a relatively early age he likely would have made a lot more stereo commercial recordings (I believe he only made one or two) and he would have been a much bigger name. I think there are other Van Beinum fans here. Once again, if that matters.
[...]
It does not really matter indeed, but I agree with this.
 
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