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Liebestod (Bamberg/Hrůša)

Bamberger Symphoniker/Jakub Hrůša (Accentus)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Mahler: Totenfeier; Symphony No. 5 – Adagietto; R Strauss: Tod und Verklärung; Wagner: Tristan und Isolde – Prelude and Liebestod
Bamberger Symphoniker/Jakub Hrůša
Accentus ACC 30599   76:01 mins

The one rare item on Jakub Hrůša’s collection of pieces inspired by love and death, and their interrelationship, is Mahler’s Totenfeier (‘Burial ceremony’), which is actually a preliminary version of the first movement of his ‘Resurrection’ Symphony No. 2. Mahler subsequently retouched the orchestration in places and deleted a couple of short passages, but otherwise the two pieces are more or less identical, and there’s nothing to suggest that he ever intended the earlier version as a stand-alone piece. The programmatic description Mahler drew up for it, which has the friends of the deceased gathering at his grave and philosophising on questions of suffering and desire, is very similar to that of Strauss’s Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration). Curiously enough, the Mahler and the Strauss were both composed in the same year of 1888.

In the case of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony it’s the opening movement that’s a funeral march, but that hasn’t stopped Hrůša from opting for the work’s popular Adagietto for strings and harp – a love-poem to the composer’s future wife Alma Schindler – instead. His choice was no doubt prompted in part by the ubiquitous use of the piece in Visconti’s film of Death in Venice. Hrůša’s performance is a good deal less lingering than those of such conductors as Haitink and Bernstein, but it accords more closely with reports of Mahler’s own interpretation of the piece. He is well served throughout this release by the playing of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, and by a spacious and natural-sounding recording.

Misha Donat