This excellent recording of Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde was released in 1998 by EMI in the Great Recordings of the Century series: its place as one of the great recordings of the 20th Century is well-deserved.
Gustav Mahler (1860 - 1911) called Das Lied von der Erde (1907- 1909) as his most personal composition. It compiles six songs to poems from Hans Bethge's Die Chinesische Flöte (The Chinese Flute). The songs are sung alternately by the mezzo-soprano and the tenor.
This large orchestral song cycle was recorded in the early 1960s by internationally reknowed artists: Christa Ludwig (Mezzo-Soprano), Fritz Wunderlich (Tenor), the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Otto Klemperer. The remastering by EMI is remarkable and therefore the sound quality equals any contemporary recording.
Musically, particularly the interpretation of both singers is outstanding, with a very clear German diction and a sensitive vocal expression. This recording was done when Fritz Wunderlich's international career reached its climax, having built a reputation as singer of Lieder and interpretations of roles in Mozart operas. This recording adds perfectly in the collection for Wunderlich-lovers, whose career was cut short by a tragic fatal accident in 1966.
The balance between orchestra and the soloists is another point of excellence in this recording. Otto Klemperer, who reached the height of his conducting career, leads the orchestra well-balanced and with a transparent sound-layer as an ideal accompanying "instrument". Nevertheless, all the orchestral nuances are brought out support all heights and lows of emotions, expressed by the singers. It should be added that Klemperer had recorded this work twice; this recording was made after his legendary Beethoven cycle (1957 - 1959) with the same orchestra.
This recoding is definitely one of the best recordings available on CD, and reasonably priced.