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NOTE: I see TalkClassical's format has changed, and the old "Blog" feature seems to have disappeared. As I take stock of how this format change impacts my use of this platform, let me attempt a thread-style post and see how that works.

For the next four days on our Podcasting channel we will be sharing recordings by the late Lorin Maazel. For this month’s lone share, my Vinyl’s Revenge selection is a live recording by Maazel of a 20th Century German work, Mahler’s Song of the Earth, but with an unlikely orchestra, that of the Teatro La Fenice in Vennice, Italy.
Also, consider this an early Earth Day celebration.

The history of La Fenice Orchestra is associated with that of the theatre, which held such an important place in opera in the nineteenth century, with premières including Semiramide, I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Rigoletto, and La traviata. The second half of the century brought an internationalisation of repertory, broadened also by symphony concerts and collaboration with leading soloists (among them Enrico Mainardi, Mstislav Rostropovich, Edwin Fischer, Aldo Ferraresi, Arthur Rubinstein).

In 1938 La Fenice became an autonomous entity and the orchestra was developed further with active participation in the Festival of Contemporary Music of the Biennale. In the 1940s and 1950s under the guidance of Toscanini, Scherchen, Bernstein, and Celibidache (with a complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies), Konwitschny (with Wagner’s Ring cycle), and Stravinsky, the orchestra presented a series of historic concerts. In concerts the orchestra has undertaken cycles, including those dedicated to Berg and to Mahler, under the direction of conductors such as Sinopoli, Kakhidze, Masur, Barshai, Tate, Ahronovitch, Kitajenko, Inbal, and Temirkanov.

I am reminded of a documentary I saw decades ago, featuring Michael Tilson Thomas, discussing how he found it difficult to conduct Mahler with Italian orchestras, because their natural rhythm is lyrical (Uno, Due, Tre) when compared to German rhythm that is more strident (Eins, Zwei, Drei).

But one thing Italian theatre orchestras do well is opera and song, and even though Mahler’s work is a hybrid between a symphony and a song cycle, it is very rooted in the latter, and under Maazel’s usual stern guidance (yes, even at this early stage in his career), the results are quite surprising.

Happy Listening

Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) (1908-09)

Contralto Vocals – Kristhine Meyer
Tenor Vocals – Richard Lewis
Orchestra Del Teatro La Fenice
Conductor – Lorin Maazel
Recorded live Venezia 11.9.1960

Label: Longanesi Periodici – GCL 35
Format: Vinyl, LP

DISCOGS - Mahler - Maazel, Orchestra Del Teatro La Fenice Di Venezia - Das Lied Von Der Erde

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