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[Off The Record]
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Poor Alma Schindler — as if it weren’t bad enough that Gustav Mahler made her stop composing when they got married, now the film that purports to honor her songs puts hardly any of them on the soundtrack. We hear Renée Fleming sing two of the earlier ones here, " Bei dir ist es traut " ( " With You I’m at Ease " ; text by Rilke) and " Laue Sommernacht " ( " Mild Summer Night " ; text by Gustav Falke). An unidentified pianist (probably Jean-Yves Thibaudet) plays a stanza’s worth of " In meines Vaters Garten, " but Renée doesn’t sing. That’s it for Alma.

Not that Gustav fares much better. Fleming sings just the first verse of his transcendent " Ich bin der Welt abhandengekommen " ( " I Have Retreated from the World " ), the lieder equivalent of coitus interruptus; the first movement of the Fifth Symphony breaks off after five minutes, and the heavenly 26-minute finale of the Third Symphony reaches its peroration only after a 20-minute cut. What’s more, the CD performances, by DGG artists Claudio Arrau and Pierre Boulez, aren’t the same ones you hear in the movie theater.

Almost half the disc is given over to original music by Stephen Endelman. He’s transfixing in the opening credits, where the initial movement of the First Symphony morphs nightmarishly into the Scherzo of the Fifth and then back. There’s more of that Scherzo on the title track, but elsewhere Endelman settles for standard-issue British movie romance. Not even the liner cover is original: it’s modeled on the Gustav Klimt painting Woman with Hat and Feather Boa that adorns the cpo label’s release of Alma’s songs. If you want to hear Alma and Gustav, pass this up in favor of a disc of her music and one of his Fifth (Walter, Kubelik, Tennstedt, Abbado, Boulez, Chailly, and the new Ben Zander are all good choices).

(Click here for Jeffrey’s film review of Bride of the Wind:


Issue Date: June 21 - 28, 2001

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