ADAM FISCHER‘ s thoughts about MAHLER‘s LIED VON DER ERDE
(from the preword of the booklet)
Das Lied von der Erde is shot through with a special atmosphere: a mood of farewell – mostly, of course, in the last movement, Der Abschied. When attempting to construct that last movement, every conductor and every orchestra are faced with a challenge that is as complicated as it is thrilling. In my view, the last movement of Das Lied von der Erde is the most difficult one to conduct in the entire repertoire. Mahler even abandoned the sensation of regular metre. He had stated elsewhere that one should not conduct the metre but the rhythm, but here things are different. Toward the end of the last movement, the 3/4 bars seem to lose contact with the ground and start to float in midair; hardly any points of reference are left for the musicians to remain together. This truly is life in the process of dissolving. When we grow old and sick, we are alone, and things start slowly grinding to a halt. I cannot disassociate this farewell from the last movement of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. Although the slow dissolving of life is even more apparent there, the tendency is already clear in Das Lied von der Erde – a continuous line can be drawn from here to the last page of the Ninth.
From the onset, the music in Das Lied von der Erde is permeated by a special mood. Even the texts, based on Far Eastern poetry, are more mood than content. Mahler repeatedly abandons the words’ meaning, but the mood remains. The music implies so much more than the words! For instance, the third poem evokes the reflection of a mirror image in water, but I don’t see those images anywhere in the music. Mahler is not concerned with helping us understand every syllable. If the voice, in its anguish, is drowned out by the orchestra, that is what the music is trying to achieve. Throughout a great number of passages, “beautiful tone” is not what is important. To the contrary. In Das Lied von der Erde, the singers are likewise required to declaim, cry, and shriek. I think that even those concertgoers who have no command of the German language have no problem in gaining a quite precise grasp of what is going on…
Born in Sydney in 1968, Stuart Skelton is one of the finest heldentenors on the stage today. He was
the first Australian to win the renowned Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition in Vienna.
Stuart was trained as an opera singer in Sydney, as well as the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in the classes of Barbara Honn and Thomas Baresel. As an Adler Fellowship member, Stuart Skelton began his international singing career in San Francisco. The multiple prizewinner now makes guest appearances on the most renowned opera and concert hall stages worldwide: at the New York Metropolitan Opera, English National Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Opernhaus Zürich, Dresden Semperoper, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and the State Operas of Vienna, Munich, Hamburg, and Berlin.
Apart from the great Wagnerian Heldentenor roles (Lohengrin, Parsifal, Erik, Siegmund, and Rienzi), Skelton’s repertoire comprises many further demanding opera parts, including Beethoven’s Florestan, Saint-Saëns’s Samson, Dvořák’s Dimitrij, Strauss’s Kaiser und Britten’s Peter Grimes. He continues to be in demand on concert stages around the world, collaborating with conductors of the likes of Daniel Harding, James Levine, Lorin Maazel, Simone Young, Michael Tilson Thomas and Daniel Barenboim.
Stuart Skelton’s extensive discography includes Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass and Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder (Edward Gardner / Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra), Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius (Sir Andrew Davis / BBC Symphony Orchestra), und Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (Michael Tilson Thomas / San Francisco Symphony). He is also participating in three separate complete recordings of Wagner’s Ring cycle: with the Hamburg Philharmonic conducted by Simone Young, with Seattle Opera, and with the State Opera of South Australia under the baton of Asher Fisch.
The 2014 International Opera Awards named him Male Singer of the Year; furthermore, Skelton has been twice honoured with the Sir Robert Helpmann Award: once for his performance of Siegmund in the State Opera of South Australia’s 2004 production of the Ring Cycle, and again in 2010 for Best Male Performer in a Lead Role for his portrayal of Peter Grimes for Opera Australia.
Anna Larsson obtained her music diploma at the University College of Opera in Stockholm, her home town. In 1992 she met the British breathing and vocal coach Anna Sims, with whom she continues to work until today. Anna Larsson sang her opera début in 1996 in Carl Unander-Scharin‘s Tokfursten/ The King of Fools at Vadstena Castle. She went on to draw major international attention in her performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony (No. 2) with the Berlin Philharmonic and Claudio Abbado in 1997.
With her rich, velvety, flowing voice, Anna Larson has made herself a worldwide reputation in the role of Erda in Wagner’s Ring cycle, with performances in the opera houses of Berlin, Vienna, Salzburg, Aix-en-Provence, and Milan. She has also covered the roles of Waltraute, Orphée, Fricka, Dalilah and Zia Principessa in venues such as Stockholm Royal Opera, Bavarian State Opera (Munich), the Palau des Arts (Valencia), and Finnish National Opera, along with the festivals in Salzburg and Aix-en-Provence, collaborating with conductors including Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta, Christoph von Dohnányi, and Kent Nagano. In January 2011 she sang her début as Kundry (Parsifal) at the Théâtre de La Monnaie in Brussels.
As a concert vocalist she has collaborated with some of the world’s greatest orchestras, including the Berlin, Vienna, New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Chicago Symphony, the LSO, and the LPO. Anna Larson masters practically all the classical repertoire for contralto and orchestra, and has especially made herself a name as an interpreter of Mahler. She also loves to sing Lieder, going regularly tour with internationally renowned pianists in vocal programmes featuring a wide range of German, British and Scandinavian art song repertoire.
In 2010, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden conferred Anna Larsson the title of Royal Court Singer. In 2011, she inaugurated her own concert hall: the Vattnäs Concert Barn in the village of Vattnäs near Mora in the Swedish province of Dalarna.
“An orchestra for Düsseldorf”: that is the objective and the high standard that the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker set for themselves – 250 times a year. This orchestra has an uncommon profile, since it performs not only in the Tonhalle, but also for the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf and in Duisburg. On its regular tours to Holland, Austria, China and Japan, the orchestra carries Düsseldorf’s reputation as a city of culture out into the world.
Already in the 1700’s, internationally celebrated artists such as Handel and Corelli collaborated on occasion with the “Düsseldorf Court Orchestra” until the court was dissolved. A century later, in 1818, orchestral culture was re-introduced into Düsseldorf when the Municipal Music Society (Städtischer Musikverein) was founded, attracting celebrated musicians of the likes of Mendelssohn and Schumann to serve as conductors. The orchestra became truly “municipal” in 1864, and after Aachen it is thus the second oldest civic orchestra in Germany. Throughout the following decades it became one of the leading and largest orchestras in the country. Its conductors in the postwar era have been Heinrich Hollreiser, Eugen Szenkar, Jean Martinon, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Henryk Czyz, Willem van Otterloo, Bernhard Klee, David Shallon, Salvador Mas Conde, John Fiore and Andrey Boreyko. Starting in the 2015 season, Adam Fischer has taken up the post of Principal Conductor. The orchestra went on tour to Spain in 2011, guested at the Beethoven Easter Festival in Warsaw in 2012, and enjoyed resounding success in Moscow that same year. In 2014, the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker gave a superb début performance at the Musikverein in Vienna, and were likewise well-received at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. In May 2015 they made nine acclaimed appearances in Tokyo.
At the beginning of the 2015/16 season, Adam Fischer was appointed Principal Conductor of the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker and Artistic Consultant of the Düsseldorf Tonhalle. He is also Honorary Conductor of the Austrian-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra, founder of the Eisenstadt Haydn Festival, and founder and director of the Wagner Festival in Budapest. Well-known for his courageous political commitment, Adam Fischer has spoken out often in favor of human rights. Together with András Schiff he initiated and signed a petition against racism and discrimination, which they submitted to the European Union.
Born in 1949 in Budapest, Adam Fischer studied composition and conducting in the Hungarian capital, and with professor Hans Swarowsky in Vienna.
After appointments as Kapellmeister in Helsinki, in Karlsruhe and at Munich State Opera, Fischer held the post of General Music Director successively at the opera houses of Freiburg, Kassel and Mannheim, and was also Music Director of Hungarian State Opera in Budapest. Since 1999 he has been Chief Conductor of the Danish National Chamber Orchestra in Copenhagen. Regular engagements have led Adam Fischer to perform in the great opera houses of Europe and the US, including Vienna, Milan, Munich, Covent Garden, the New York Met and Bayreuth Festival. In orchestra appearances he also conducts the Vienna Philharmonic, the Vienna Symphony, the Munich Philharmonic, the Orchestre de Paris, the London Philharmonic (LPO), the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Chicago and Boston Symphonies and the NHK Symphony in Tokyo.
Fischer’s award-winning CD releases include the complete symphonic works of Haydn (distinguished with the German national prize “Echo Klassik”) as well as of Mozart. He has also been awarded the Grand Prix du Disque twice: for his recordings of Die Königin von Saba (Goldmark) and of Bluebeard’s Castle (Bartók). In 2017, Adam Fischer was named Honorary Member of Vienna State Opera.
During his own time, Gustav Mahler was considered as one of the major conductors of Europe, but nowadays he is considered to a major composer who bridged the Late Romantic period to the modern age.
Few composers are so connected with the symphonic repertory as Gustav Mahler. Composing symphonies was his "core business": in every aspect he developed the symphony towards, and sometimes even over, its absolute limits. Almost all of Mahler's symphonies are lenghty, demand a large orchestra and are particularly great in their expressive qualities. With rustic and mythical atmospheres (the start of the First Symphony), daunting chaos (the end of his Sixth), grand visions (end of his Second), cheerful melodies (opening Fourth), romantic melancholy (the famous adagio of his Fifth), evocations of nature (his Third), megalomanic eruptions in the orchestra (his Eighth), and the clamant atonality of his unfinished Tenth, Mahler's musical palette seemed inexhaustible.
His symphonies are captivating, but some could find it a bit 'over the top' at times. For those, his orchestral songs could undoubtedly show there is an incredibly subtle and refined side to his compositional style as well.
In the Netherlands, Mahler is particularly popular due to its close bond with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, which was already established during his lifetime!