The Artistry of Christa Ludwig: Two Songs from Mahler’s “Rückert Lieder”

During the summers of 1901 and 1902, Gustav Mahler wrote five Lieder based on poems written by Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866). Mahler did not intend the Rückert-Lieder (Songs after Rückert) to be performed as a cycle. Originally, the songs were published independently and later grouped together.

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (“I Am Lost to the World”) is the dreamy soliloquy of the solitary artist, which concludes with the lines, “I live alone in my heaven, In my love and in my song.” The poet withdraws from the mundane, everyday world to enter a deeper, transcendent reality. Mahler’s music is filled with serene, distant lament. At moments, there are intimations of the sensuous Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony, which Mahler was composing during the same summer. We get a sense of the celestial mystery of Das Lied von der Erde. As the song unfolds, listen to the way the human voice enters into a seamless dialogue with the voices of the orchestra, from the pastoral sounds of the English horn and the warm glow of the harp, to the nocturnal wanderings of the solo horn.

This 1967 recording features the late Christa Ludwig with Otto Klemperer and the Philharmonia Orchestra:

Liebst du um Schönheit (“If you love for beauty”) was written in August of 1902, a year after the other songs. It was Mahler’s gift and love song to his wife, Alma. As a result, it is the only song which was not orchestrated. The poem is an ode to a deep love which goes beyond beauty and youthful infatuation. The song is filled with hazy chromaticism and longing.

Christa Ludwig is accompanied by the pianist, Gerald Moore:

Recordings

  • Mahler: Rückert-Lieder, Christa Ludwig, Otto Klemperer, Philharmonia Orchestra, Gerald Moore Amazon

Featured Image: Gustav and Alma Mahler

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

2 thoughts on “The Artistry of Christa Ludwig: Two Songs from Mahler’s “Rückert Lieder””

  1. I have only just discovered your site. [I found it when searching for analyses of Ravel’s “Valses nobles et sentimentales.”] I have a great deal of reading to catch up on here, obviously.

    I am so pleased that you chose a work of song to highlight the great talent of Christa Ludwig. True: I learned of her decades ago from my opera-fan father, and so I first encountered her in operatic roles. But I have always thought that song takes an extra level of intelligence on the part of the performer, who is so much more exposed than in multi-voice roles. And I’m particularly pleased that you chose the “Rückert Lieder” [I’m a Mahlerian] to highlight her artistry. These are songs that demand not just a vocal range but a great emotional range as well. To top if off: you chose to highlight that her voice can stand out against an orchestra as well as a brilliant accompanist.

    Thank you for this post.

    Reply

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