Not since Leonard Bernstein has a performer been so identified with the music of Gustav Mahler as Thomas Hampson. This concert, available on both DVD and Blu-ray, presents a riveting, passionate and overwhelmingly beautiful performance. Under the direction of Neeme Järvi the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande prove once again why they are a world-class ensemble. Especially known for their French repertoire, in this work their sonorities range from sumptuous and vibrant to delicate and ethereal, perfectly reflecting the Asian undertow of the text. The fine principal flute and oboe players outdo themselves in the last movement titled "Der Abschied" (The Farewell) where their solos magically entwine with the singer's breathing. Time becomes an entirely new experience here.
Tenor Paul Groves offers a dramatic reading of his three movements that captures the cynical, nostalgic and intoxicated characters that inhabit the piece. Words do not suffice to describe Thomas Hampson's artistry. The deep sense of humanity that is at the heart of Mahler's creativity flows through Hampson's voice and is transformed into experiences that both heighten and transcend that humanness. In that sense composer and performer have merged into an ecstatic whole that we the audience are also called to. It doesn't get much better than this.
The camera work, beautifully directed by Jason Starr, captures all the detail without sacrificing the larger sweep of the piece. The sparkling yet spacious audio, presented in both stereo and 5.1 surround sound, was recorded by Jerry Bruck. Subtitles are in English, German, French and Japanese. The concert film begins with an exciting rendition of Richard Strauss's Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration).