On December 1, BIS Records released the latest album in the years-long recording project undertaken by the Orchestra and Conductor Laureate Osmo Vänskä to perform and record all ten of Gustav Mahler’s epic symphonies.
It took a full Orchestra, four choirs, seven vocal soloists and one fearless conductor to perform the composer’s Eighth Symphony—one of the most ambitious choral-orchestral symphonies in classical music history. The monumental work was captured by the BIS team using sound technology that faithfully reproduces the unique acoustics of Orchestra Hall.
While Mahler did not appreciate the Symphony of a Thousand moniker that his Eighth would come to be known by, he was certainly proud of the work itself: “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…”
It is no surprise, then, that Vänskä chose Mahler’s Eighth to be the final symphony he would conduct as the Orchestra’s music director, after leading the ensemble through many extraordinary endeavors since 2003. The audio for the newly released album was drawn in part from these live performances at Orchestra Hall in June 2022, with additional recording sessions held during the week that followed the concert.
The choirs and vocalists that can be heard in the recording include 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. Making this great feat all the more daring, Sampson pulled double duty in the recording, performing both her own Mater Gloriosa role as well as that of Magna Peccatrix after the soprano originally slated to perform that role became ill two days before the first concert.
As you give the Eighth a listen, mark your calendars: in spring 2024, BIS will release the final album of the Minnesota Orchestra’s Mahler recording project, the Third Symphony.
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