Fabio Luisi with the Danish Radio Orchestra
Music and Opera reporting on is made possible by The University of North Texas College of Music.
Select the link below to discover more.

Review: Mahler's Song of the Earth | Dallas Symphony Orchestra | Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center

Earth Song

The Dallas Symphony, using a reduced orchestra, presents Mahler's Song of the Earth.

published Saturday, October 10, 2020

Photo: Fay Fox
Mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford


Dallas — Friday night brought a unique, often moving, albeit somewhat flawed rendition of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde of 1909 to Meyerson Symphony Center, with conductor Fabio Luisi, mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford, and a reduced version of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra turning in awe-inspiring performances of this pinnacle of late romanticism.

Inspired by ancient Chinese poetry as filtered through the lens of late romanticism in the translation of Hans Bethge, Das Lied von der Erde (“The Song of the Earth”) presents an amalgamation of the classical symphony and the romantic-era song cycle, with heavy influence of the romantic tone poem and Wagner’s harmonic idiom and vocal demands. The Dallas Symphony had previously scheduled performances in Mahler’s original version for large orchestra, an option destroyed by the current pandemic; fortunately, an alternative version for chamber orchestra, begun by Mahler’s disciple Arnold Schoenberg in 1922 and completed by in 1980 by Rainer Riehn, provided a means for presenting the work with an orchestra of 22 musicians, comfortably spaced (with string players and percussionists masked) for reduced risk. As in all performances of the Dallas Symphony this fall, the audience was limited to a few dozen in a concert with no intermission.

One might well wonder if a reduced orchestration of Mahler’s famously lush symphonic style would undermine the effect; however, the leaner forces in many ways enhanced and clarified Mahler’s sound world, and, indeed, underlined the intimacy of the ideas presented in the text.

This was particularly the case under Luisi’s firmly controlled guidance of a superb group of musicians. The Schoenberg-Riehn version calls for one performer on each string part, but this performance wisely expanded that to six violinists, two violists, two cellists, and one bass. A string ensemble this small but with multiple players on each part calls for absolutely flawless intonation and matching of timbres among the players on each part, and this group of musicians met the challenge magnificently.

The work as a whole is cast in six movements, or “songs,” alternating between a tenor soloist and either a baritone or mezzo-soprano. Australian heldentenor Stuart Skelton was an unfortunately disappointing link in the chain: he may have been suffering from the high-pollen count that frequently afflicts singers in these parts (but only, as we old-timers know, in fall, winter, spring, or summer), but he resorted to a tone quality that might mercifully be described as shouting, with some uncomfortable cracks in the vocal line. Skelton’s obviously intense physical approach in a role calling on the singer to alternately represent drunkenness, monsters, and world-weary resignation was at times intriguing, but never rescued the obvious vocal difficulties he was suffering.

Taking the mezzo-soprano role, Utah-born Mumford brought a gorgeously rich vocal quality and total command of Mahler’s considerable demands on the singer. The fourth movement, describing the glancing encounter of a young horseman and a maiden, glowed with delicate, subtle sensuality in Mumford’s collaboration with conductor Luisi, and the final movement, rich with autumnal world-weariness and serene resignation, created a breath-taking epilogue. Conductor Luisi had carefully etched and delineated every fine point throughout the score, all the while allowing the music and the soloists to hold the spotlight. In spite of a flawed tenor soloist, this listener and the 80 or so other music lovers in the room came away having experienced the profundity of a work that discovers serenity within the inherent darkness of life. Thanks For Reading

View the Article Slideshow
Click or Swipe to close
Earth Song
The Dallas Symphony, using a reduced orchestra, presents Mahler's Song of the Earth.
by Wayne Lee Gay

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :