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Monday, October 28, 2019

Mahler, Orchestral Songs, The Organ Transcriptions, David John Pike, David Briggs

Some ideas are good ones and one such is Mahler's Orchestral Songs: The Organ Transcriptions (Analekta 2 9180). In the series of baritone-organ versions of the songs as performed admirably by David John Pike (baritone) and David Briggs (organ) we get another way to experience the music.

And what a block of music it is: the "Songs of a Wayfarer," "Songs on the Death of Children," the "Rickert-Lieder" and one from "The Boy's Magic Horn." These are some cornerstones of Mahler's art and in the orchestral versions they sing out in unforgettable fashion, so much so that it takes some getting re-acclimation to hear these organ versions.

At first I very much missed the orchestrations, and too the somewhat cavernous ambiance of the cathedral in this recording was a definite contrast to the relative crispness of what one hears in Mahler's originals. But then too David John Pike is remarkable as baritone in the vocal role and Maestro Briggs turns in a flawless performance with lots of spirit. And in time I focused on that and all was well.

Some of these songs are key to grasping the folk element in Mahler and by hearing the vocal line in a kind of new bold relief we can take all that in from another angle. And of course we must accustom ourselves to the correspondence of organ stops to orchestration. All that takes a few listens, or it did for me at any rate.

All told if you love this music in its orchestra incarnation we have yet another way to appreciate it all. Organ aficionados will be fascinated and Pike's vocal performances are nothing less than heroic. But then Briggs rises to the occasion as well.

Happily recommended for those who already know the music and love it. And for those who revel in the organ-baritone sonance potential. Here's a new and happy way to hear Mahler at his best.

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