Mahler Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen with National Symphony Orchestra Ireland

Still, there is no mistaking that, for most, the evening’s main event is what follows, as mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught comes on stage. Gustav Mahler’s early Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (usually translated as ‘Songs of a Wayfarer’) may have been a relatively youthful exercise for the composer, but in many ways it stakes out the stylistic and creative priorities of much that followed. At its heart is the bliss of the innocent natural world, brought face-to-face with the terror and anguish of a devastated emotional landscape.
While only four songs in length, this is very much a song-cycle, with Mahler both expanding and distilling the possibilities of the German art-song tradition. It is a beautiful work, and in Tara Erraught’s singing it finds a powerful advocate. It is over two years since she was last heard here, and either her voice has changed or else this material draws something new from her: there is a greater depth and vibrancy of tone, an emphatic certainty of interpretation, and also an emotional openness that goes with it. Everything is connected – her diction is clear and fluent, even pointed at times, with text and expression going hand in hand.
The wistful enthusiasm of the first two songs draws bright tone and a keen sense of character. For the crisis of ‘Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer’ (‘I have a red-hot knife…’) Erraught projects an operatic intensity, singing with urgency and passion, before reaching the heartfelt fragility of the final song. The orchestra clearly relishes this rich material, playing beautifully, but without overwhelming the singer. This is a superbly controlled performance, worthy of a recording, and the audience respond enthusiastically. It certainly makes the prospect of seeing Tara Erraught in the title role of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda next month all the more exciting.