The Orchestra and BIS Records release the penultimate disc in years-long Mahler recording project with Osmo Vänskä
On Friday, December 1, BIS Records released a recording of Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony. Recorded under the direction of Osmo Vänskä, the Orchestra’s music director from 2003 to 2022, the album marks the ninth and penultimate release in the Orchestra’s years-long effort to perform and record all ten of the Romantic composer’s symphonies. The Orchestra, four choirs and seven vocal soloists performed Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in concerts at Orchestra Hall in June 2022. The album was recorded live and over a series of recording sessions the week following the concerts. It is available for purchase through the Orchestra’s website at minnesotaorchestra.org and from other online retailers; for a full list of streaming platforms, visit bisrecords.lnk.to/2496.
Known as the Symphony of a Thousand, Mahler’s Eighth Symphony is one of the most ambitious choral-orchestral symphonies in classical music history. The monumental work seamlessly weaves vocal and instrumental sonorities and draws inspiration from both a medieval hymn and the final scene of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s tragic play Faust. Upon completing the composition in 1906, Mahler proclaimed: “It is the biggest thing I have done so far. And so individual in its content and form that I cannot describe it in words. Imagine that the whole universe begins to vibrate and resound. These are no longer human voices, but planets and suns resolving…” The composer led the work’s premiere performance in 1910, only eight months before his death at the age of 50.
The Orchestra’s June 2022 performances of the Eighth Symphony were the last ones Osmo Vänskä would lead as the ensemble’s music director; he began his new role as conductor laureate last year. The concerts were also among the largest-scale performances ever conducted at Orchestra Hall. In these concerts, the full Orchestra was joined by four choirs and seven soloists, which included the Minnesota Chorale, National Lutheran Choir, Angelica Cantanti Youth Choirs, Minnesota Boychoir, tenor Barry Banks, mezzos Sasha Cooke and Jess Dandy, bass-baritone Christian Immler, baritone Julian Orlishausen, and sopranos Carolyn Sampson and Jacquelyn Wagner.
Led by producer Robert Suff, the BIS team recorded this album as a Super Audio CD (SACD), using surround sound technology to reproduce the acoustical quality of Orchestra Hall as faithfully as possible. BIS Hybrid SACDs are playable on all standard CD players. In spring 2024, BIS will release the final album of the Minnesota Orchestra’s Mahler recording project, the Third Symphony. Further information about the Orchestra’s recordings on the BIS Records label can be found on the BIS website at bis.se.
Minnesota Orchestra Recording History
The Minnesota Orchestra, founded in 1903 as the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, issued its first recording in 1924 and has since recorded more than 450 works, with Osmo Vänskä leading a particularly rich period of recording during his 19-year tenure from 2003 to 2022. The Orchestra’s Sibelius Symphonies cycle received critical praise, and the second recording in the cycle—featuring the First and Fourth Symphonies—won the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance. In 2016, Vänskä and the Orchestra released a live-in-concert recording featuring Sibelius’ five-part symphonic poem Kullervo and his beloved Finlandia, plus Finnish composer Olli Kortekangas’ Migrations, a new work commissioned by the Orchestra. Other recordings by Vänskä and the Orchestra include two albums of Beethoven and Mozart piano concertos featuring Yevgeny Sudbin; a two-disc Tchaikovsky set featuring pianist Sir Stephen Hough; and a widely-praised cycle of the complete Beethoven symphonies. The Orchestra is also featured on a recording released by Doomtree Records in November 2019: Sound the Bells, a live-in-concert album spotlighting singer-rapper-writer Dessa in a performance of her music arranged by Andy Thompson, recorded live at Orchestra Hall in March 2019 under the baton of Sarah Hicks.
GUSTAV MAHLER’S SYMPHONY NO. 8
Osmo Vänskä, conductor
National Lutheran Choir
Angelica Cantanti Youth Choirs
Barry Banks, tenor
Sasha Cooke, mezzo
Jess Dandy, mezzo
Christian Immler, bass-baritone
Julian Orlishausen, baritone
Carolyn Sampson, soprano
Jacquelyn Wagner, soprano
Symphony No. 8, Symphony of a Thousand
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