In search of the “authentic” Mahler style…

This is cross-posted from Synaphai.


A century ago, Ludwig van Beethoven was by near-universal consensus the most admired composer among lovers and performers of classical music; at the time, little if any consideration was given to the issue of “authentic” performance practice. Keyboard instruments of Beethoven’s era had for the most part been discarded in favor of what we know as the modern piano; orchestral wind, brass, and percussion instruments were similarly superseded by more evolved models. Conductors of the era, including Gustav Mahler, were prone to adjust orchestration to compensate for forces larger and quite different in sound than those of Beethoven’s era.

Today, there is a strong argument that Mahler occupies the pedestal that had been held by Beethoven during an era when his great champions included names such as von Bulow, Paderewski, Rachmaninoff, Weingartner, Toscanini — and, of course, Mahler himself.

The fact that a small but artistically signifiant number of recordings of Mahler’s music were made during the acoustic and “shellac” (electrical pre-LP) recording eras — including several by artists who worked closely with Mahler — gives modern listeners the opportunity to hear these works as they had been sung and played during an era when, contrary to earlier assumptions, their reputation and popularity were on the rise until political and social upheaval – and war – swept Europe in the 1930s.

These early studio recordings, naturally, have given rise to speculation about whether or not it is possible to determine an “authentic” performance style for Mahler.

Several years ago, when I produced “The Music of Gustav Mahler; Issued 78s, 1903-1940” — the first comprehensive anthology of every commercially-issued Mahler 78s released between 1903 and 1940 and listed in Peter Fülöp’s exhausive Mahler discography — my intent was not only to present these recordings in the context of the era in which they were issued in the best sound possible, but to also offer informed insight into historical, technical, and artistic facts surrounding these recordings in the form of thorough liner notes authored by Sybille Werner.

The set and the accompanying notes were not conceived to answer questions about “authentic” Mahler performance practice — nor for that matter do I believe an answer to the question exists, though one can discern that there were significant artistic and interpretive characteristics unique to the era, particularly in instrumental playing.   Additionally, one cannot ignore overall differences among authoritative studio recordings made by Mahler’s conducting colleagues and protégés: Bruno Walter, Willem Mengelberg, and Oskar Fried. Likewise, the voices of Leopold Demuth, Lula Mysz-Gmeiner, and Sara Charles-Cahier, three singers who had sung under Mahler’s direction, shed light not only to the composer’s music but the vocal style and tradition of Mahler’s world, along with the many other singers represented in the set.

I have in recent months received several inquiries about the future availability of the set. I have completed most of the technical work on a follow-up set that will include the remaining 78s and several important recordings issued during the early LP era, but good quality copies of two discs have proven elusive. I expect this situation to be resolved in the next few months, and am speaking with my strategic partners about a short run of the original set once the second volume is completed. 

The original run of “The Music of Gustav Mahler; Issued 78s, 1903-1940” — 1000 copies — was warmly received by the press, and my distributors sold out of the set within less than two months of its release date. Used copies that turn up on eBay and Amazon command insanely high prices.

Releasing the set as a digital item through online retailers has proven problematic, despite the dogged efforts of my worldwide distributor, Alto Distribution, and my outstanding digital aggregator, Entertainment One.

Some of the major players in digital music for direct sale and download, most notably iTunes, have introduced logistical obstacles that make it next to impossible to make sets with a large number of tracks available for download or streaming.

As a result, I have decided to make the entire set available through a small-scale strategic partner for purchase in lossless download formats: Apple Lossless for iTunes users and flac for most other listeners. The original English-language liner notes and all German texts with English translations are included in .pdf format.

You can download the entire package here.

I will leave any conclusions concerning Mahler’s “authentic” style to you, the listener.

Baltimore Sun: “Indispensable to Serious Mahler fans”

The Baltimore Sun‘s Tim Smith celebrates Gustav Mahler’s birthday by going “old school” with Urlicht AudioVisual’s acclaimed complete edition of issued prewar 78s:

“Mahler will always be a big deal to me, which means I never tire of learning more about him and hearing more interpretations of his work. And that is why I want to make sure you know about a collection from Urlicht AudioVisual — ‘The Music of Gustav Mahler: Issued 78s, 1903-1940′.

“This set of eight compact discs is indispensable to serious Mahler fans. Of course, the most serious will already have the Bruno Walter-conducted items and may have tracked down a lot of the more obscure material already. But a lot of us will find many a fresh treasure — or curio (the Fourth Symphony recorded by a Tokyo orchestra in 1930, for example).

“And, besides, it’s great to have everything gathered together in a neat package, all sensitively transferred (by Ward Marston, Mark Obert-Thorn and Charles Martin), with highly detailed and illuminating notes by Sybille Werner and the set’s producer Gene Gaudette. …

“There are marvels of interpretive nuance that emerge throughout the set, despite dated sound and some less-than-stellar orchestral playing here and there. Today’s performers could learn an awful lot from studying this music-making.

Now available in the US and most European and Asian territories.

  • The most comprehensive collection ever assembled of Mahler’s music as issued on 78s between 1903 and 1940 — every such recording listed in Péter Fülöp’s Mahler Discography
  • New transfers by Ward Marston and Mark Obert-Thorn
  • Detailed notes on the music, the recording artists, and revelatory information about performances of Mahler’s music prior to World War II by Sybille Werner
  • Full texts and translations
  • Super-value price

No longer available, limited to an edition of 1000 copies
Continue reading Baltimore Sun: “Indispensable to Serious Mahler fans”

CRQ: “Fascinating and Most Valuable”

mahlerscanposterized2400Classic Recording Quarterly‘s Alan Sanders devotes nearly two pages to a detailed review of the recordings in “The Music of Gustav Mahler: Issued 78s” in the magazine’s Winter 2014 edition, and he likes what he hears!

 “[Ward] Marston has been at work [transferring Oskar Fried’s acoustic recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2] again, and he has produced a notably clearer and fuller sound than before. …

“I have compared the [Bruno Walter transfers with those on EMI/Warner’s recent Walter collection (6 79026-2)… the new Symphony No. 9 has a little more warmth and presence. …

“There is also a Das Lied potpourri and an arrangement of a Wunderhorn song played by the Dol Dauber Salonorchester. Both are strangely convincing. One disc that needs to be mentioned is of the “Urlicht” from the Second Symphony, coupled with one of the Rückert Lieder, sung by the contralto Sara Charles Cahier. She was a member of the Vienna Hofoper between 1907 and 1911, and performed under Mahler’s baton shortly before he lef his post as music director. She also sang in the first performance of Das Lied von der Erde. At the time of the 1930 recording she was 60, but she still sings affectingly. …

“A fascinating and most valuable set, and it is supported by a very informative 50-page English language essay.”

Now available in the US and most European and Asian territories.

  • The most comprehensive collection ever assembled of Mahler’s music as issued on 78s between 1903 and 1940 — every such recording listed in Péter Fülöp’s Mahler Discography
  • New transfers by Ward Marston and Mark Obert-Thorn
  • Detailed notes on the music, the recording artists, and revelatory information about performances of Mahler’s music prior to World War II by Sybille Werner
  • Full texts and translations
  • Super-value price

No longer available, limited to an edition of 1000 copies
Continue reading CRQ: “Fascinating and Most Valuable”

The Music of Gustav Mahler – Issued 78s, 1903-1940

This collection of every known commercially issued Mahler recording from 1903-40 is one of the most important Mahler issues in recent decades and is very strongly recommended indeed.” — Robert Matthew-Walker, International Record Review, Dec. 2013

Epic… Excellent transfers and exhaustive notes.
Gramophone

This impressive collection of early — very early — Mahler recordings includes symphonies led by the likes of Bruno Walter, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Eugene Ormandy and Willem Mengelberg, often in interpretations more willful and changeable than we are used to today.
– Zachary Woolfe, “2014 Holiday Gift Guide: Best Music,” The New York Times

  • mahlerscanposterized2400The most comprehensive collection ever assembled of Mahler’s music as issued on 78s between 1903 and 1940 — every such recording listed in Péter Fülöp’s Mahler Discography
  • New transfers by Ward Marston and Mark Obert-Thorn
  • Detailed notes on the music, the recording artists, and revelatory information about performances of Mahler’s music prior to World War II by Sybille Werner
  • Full texts and translations
  • Super-value price

Produced by Gene Gaudette
Special thanks to Henry-Louis de La Grange

CD Edition: Urlicht AudioVisual UAV-5980
No longer available, limited to an edition of 1000 copies


Continue reading The Music of Gustav Mahler – Issued 78s, 1903-1940

“Songs for Mahler in the Absence of Words”

When I heard this program presented during the 2011 New York Chamber Music Festival, in honor of the centenary of Gustav Mahler‘s death, I knew it had to be recorded. The New York Piano Quartet brought the sort of urgency to Mahler’s earliest surviving work, the opening movement of what was to be a longer Quartet for Piano and Strings, that has eluded every other performance and recording of this work that I have heard. Three distinctly different realizations of Mahler’s sketches for what was to be the quartet’s second movement are also featured — a completion in the grand romantic style by Enguerrand-Friedrich Luhl, the angular, almost expressionist movement by Soviet master Alfred Schnittke, and Gernot Wolfgang‘s jazz-infused From Vienna With Love. The program also includes works commissioned for the concert in remarkably divergent styles by Wang Jie, Cristina Spinei, Barney Johnson, Noel Zahler, Patricia Leonard, and Nicolas Prada. The players and I have dedicated this recording to author and critic Norman Lebrecht, an indefatigable champion of Mahler’s music.

— Gene Gaudette, Managing Partner, Urlicht AudioVisual

Songs for Mahler in the Absence of Words

Gustav Mahler: Piano Quartet
Enguerrard Friedrich Luhl: Scherzo
Gernot Wolfgang: From Vienna with Love
Christina Spinei: Mahler Remixed
Barney Johnson: Mahler 99
Wang Jie: Songs for Mahler in the Absence of Words
Noel Zahler: Le miroir de l’ombre
Patricia Leonard: Strangely Close, Yet Distant
Alfred Schnittke: Piano Quartet
Nicolas Prada: Reflections on Mahler

New York Piano Quartet
Elmira Darvarova, violin / Ronald Carbone, viola / Samuel Magill, cello / Linda Hall, piano

Produced by Gene Gaudette
Engineered by John C. Baker
Recorded March 2012, Lawrenceville School Chapel, Lawrenceville, NJ

Urlicht AudioVisual UAV-5998

CD Release Date: September 25, 2012