Monday, May 01, 2006

Domingo's Mahler

In the last ten years or so, Placido Domingo has managed to escape the Italian repertoire into the hard-core German post-Romantic stuff. He just cut Tristan und Isolde, and - I just learned - Das Lied von der Erde. That was six years ago, but it's new to me.

Oddly enough, Sony chose to go with the tenor-baritone arrangement. That is a problem because Bernstein's Wiener Philharmoniker recording with James King and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is the king of that field. Paul Kletzki's recording with Murray Dickie and Fischer-Dieskau is another good one, but something about Das Lied requires Lenny. The fact that James King was a really great Heldentenor is something else entirely. Of traditional recordings, I am fond of Bertini's disc with Marjana Lipovšek and Ben Heppner. That's back out in the Bertini EMI box.

As to this one, Esa-Pekka Salnonen does a good job with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He turns in an energetic, if slightly dry, account. The baritone, Bo Skovhus, is OK. This disc isn't about him, and that's OK. If it were, it would be a disappointment. He is a touch on the emotional side, but I didn't say "treacle," did I? He reminds some reviewers, and myself, of later Fischer-Dieskau: nice tone, weird phrasing. He doesn't hector, always a plus.

Domingo is a good tenor. It's good to have him in Das Lied, which is up there with Siegfried and Tristan und Isolde for tenor Everests (German ones, anyway). I am always partial to Peter Schreier (who did two recordings of Das Lied), but he is a different animal. Domingo has poor German diction and a slight tendency to get overwrought, but it's worth it to hear his voice in this score. Just don't throw out your Bernstein discs.