Monday, May 14, 2012

66 Performances of Mahler's Urlicht (Primal Light)

Urlicht, originally a song in Gustav Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn, was later incorporated (with expanded orchestration) into his Symphony No.2, known as the Resurrection Symphony, as the work's fourth movement. To quote Michael Steinberg:

"'Urlicht,' one of Mahler’s loveliest songs, is full of Mahlerian paradox in that its hymnlike simplicity and naturalness are achieved by a metrical flexibility so vigilant of prosody and so complex that the opening section of thirty‑five bars has twenty‑one changes of meter. The chamber‑musical scoring is characteristically detailed and inventive."

This playlists features Urlicht from over 60 performances of the Resurrection Symphony, including the premiere recording made by Oskar Fried with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra in 1924, and almost every critically acclaimed recording in or out of print: Mehta, Abbado, Tennstedt, Klemperer, Kaplan, Rattle and many more.

I only included recordings from complete performances of the 2nd symphony, except for one track from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, sang by Anne Sofie von Otter, attached at the end of the playlist. Besides being an index of Mahler 2 recordings (click the album title of any track if you want to hear the full symphony), it also works as an all-star list of alto and mezzo-sopranos on Spotify.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist here: Mahler: Urlicht (68 tracks, from 66 recordings). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view.  Lyrics below is from Wikipedia.

Original German
Urlicht
O Röschen rot!
Der Mensch liegt in größter Not!
Der Mensch liegt in größter Pein!
Je lieber möcht' ich im Himmel sein.
Da kam ich auf einen breiten Weg:
Da kam ein Engelein und wollt’ mich abweisen.
Ach nein! Ich ließ mich nicht abweisen!
Ich bin von Gott und will wieder zu Gott!
Der liebe Gott wird mir ein Lichtchen geben,
Wird leuchten mir bis in das ewig selig Leben!
In English
Primeval Light
O red rose!
Man lies in greatest need!
Man lies in greatest pain!
How I would rather be in heaven.
There came I upon a broad path
when came a little angel and wanted to turn me away.
Ah no! I would not let myself be turned away!
I am from God and shall return to God!
The loving God will grant me a little light,
Which will light me into that eternal blissful life!

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