Although it's clearly not a happy set of songs, Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children) is one of the major cycles for baritones or mezzos, and contains some of the composer's most distilled musical thinking.
The scoring for orchestra is sparse, which means that its realisation on the piano is quite natural; the words are direct and few, which gives the cycle a compact feeling. There are moments of emotional outburst, but in general the feeling is restrained; and there are also wonderful moments when the sun comes out.
I've wanted to do the Kindertotenlieder for many years, but it's only now that I feel that I've commanded the vocal, linguistic and emotional range to do so.
The Echoes of War recital on 12th October contains topical references to the First World War, and the Kindertotenlieder cycle matches that theme: it is often said that many of the men who went to war and died were just boys. Mahler died before the Great War, but might worth speculating - not that I think we could ever come up with an answer - on what he might have written in reaction to that great conflict; indeed, on how he would have conducted his life through the War.