A musical one-man’s army

This is excerpts in English from John Christiansen’s article on Niels Borksand’s recording of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. For the full article in Danish, please visit www.jcklassisk.dk.

A Musical One Man Army The 3. June 2017

About Gustav Mahler
Who from the top of the world of classical music have not recorded Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde? Bruno Walter gave the original performance of this work in 1911 – after Mahler’s death. Many years later he made three recordings, most unforgettably in 1952 with the wonderful alto Kathleen Ferrier and the legendary tenor Julius Patzak. But you will not get any listing of ”the best” recordings here. A concept like ”the best” in fact makes no sense and is seldom of any value. I have a different object, since you may presume that many people will ask the following question: What are we supposed to do with Niels Borksand, Elisabeth Hanke and Stig Fogh Andersen when we already have these great old masters? Well, one of the particularly powerful things in Mahler’s song about the Earth is the personal depth of the music, which in the performance demands a personal understanding and identification. And exactly these two things are also extremely prominent in the Danish recording.

[…] A Bulgarian Wiener orchestra
Those who have never heard the symphony orchestra of Ruse might be surprised to hear how well they play. The wind instruments are very fine indeed. In the cd-booklet Borksand talks about the town which is the most northerly in Bulgaria, situated by the Danube river and often mentioned as ”Little Vienna”. And yes it has rubbed off. The orchestra of Ruse has some of the true Vienese sound and tone which is undoubtedly part of the work. And naturally some of the credit for the fact that the Vienese Mahler shines through must go to Niels Borksand.

I wrote in the beginning that Niels Borksand has both a mind to and a sense of conducting. I have said the same before about his Wagner. But now we talk about his Mahler. The Chinese-German words and their meaning is in a softly balanced way reflected in the shaping of the music.

And another thing: There are music which a conductor can bring to life, as long as the soloists go along, and then there are music which a soloist can keep up with the conductor as passenger. But Mahler’s sensitive music demands a mutual understanding between the two soloists and the conductor. That understanding exists in abundance between Borksand and his two soloists. It is part of the experience of listening to this new recording and it is very special.