Now available in discrete multi-channel surround SACD as well as the CD recording!
Benjamin Zander's four previous Telarc recordings of Mahler symphonies (the Ninth, the Fifth, the Fourth, and the Sixth) with the Philharmonia Orchestra have inspired music critics around the world to use descriptions such as "searing," "definitive," and "uniquely illuminating." Now he brings his signature combination of passion and impeccable musicianship to Mahler's epic Third Symphony. The three-CD set includes a bonus discussion disc intended for the lay listener, in which Zander takes the listener through the score movement by movement revealing Zander's insights into the symphony.
Mahler did the main work on his Third Symphony in the summer of 1895, when he composed the last five of its six movements, and in 1896, when he added the first. The symphony is built around two of Mahler's songs Ablösung im Sommer (Relief in Summer) and Das himmlische Leben (Life in Heaven), which date back to 1890 and 1892 respectively. He made final revisions in May of 1899 and the symphony was introduced in piecemeal. Arthur Nikisch conducted the second movement, then presented as Blumenstück (Flower Piece), with the Berlin Philharmonic on 9 November 1896. Felix Weingartner gave performances of the second, third and sixth movements with the Royal Orchestra, Berlin, on 9 March 1897. Mahler conducted the first complete performance, with Luise Geller-Wolter singing the alto solos, at the Festival of the Allgemeiner deutscher Musikverein at Krefeld on 9 June 1902.
During the early summer of 1895, at the tiny inn at Steinbach on the Attersee, Mahler began the composition. He wrote the minuet Blumenstück, which was inspired by the flower-strewn meadow surrounding the hut. Even by this early date he had already conceived an overall plan. Starting from inert matter—rocks and inanimate nature—he could already glimpse the way in which the vast epic would proceed, one by one, through the stages of evolution—flowers, animals and mankind himself—before rising to universal love, which he imagined as a supremely transcendental force.
There were times when Mahler plunged into despair, for, in contrast to his two previous symphonies, he no longer sought to depict the world from the point of view of a struggling, suffering man, but this time went to the very heart of existence, where he must feel in complete awe of the world and of God. Moreover, he realized that the first movement counted for one-third of the symphony's length.
In the third movement, Mahler draws on his song Relief in Summer, whose text tells of waiting for Lady Nightingale to start singing as soon as the cuckoo is through. The fourth movement is highlighted by a human voice intoning the Midnight Song from Friedrich Nietzche's Also sprach Zarathustra. Each of its eleven lines is to be imagined as coming between two of the twelve strokes of midnight. From here the music continues without a break and, as abruptly as it changed from the scherzo to Nietzche's midnight, so does it move now from the darkness into a world of bells and angels. The text of the fifth movement, Es sungen drei Engel (Three Angels Were Singing), comes from the famous collection of the folk poetry Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy's Magic Horn), as well as the interjections of "Du sollst ja nicht weinen" (But you mustn't weep) are Mahler's own.
Finnish mezzo-soprano Lilli Paasikivi studied at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm and the Royal College of Music in London, as well as privately with Dame Janet Baker. Highlights of her career include performances with Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig under Herbert Blomstedt, New York Philharmonic under Lorin Maazel and Los Angeles Philharmonic with Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Music was Benjamin Zander's life at a very early age. He was already composing by age nine, and by twelve was studying under Benjamin Britten and Imogen Holst. He left home at fifteen to study for five years with the great Spanish cellist Gaspar Cassadó in Florence and at the State Academy in Cologne. After completing his degree at London University, he went to the United States on a Harkness Fellowship and has made his home in Boston ever since. As conductor of the Boston Philharmonic since its formation in 1978, and a guest conductor of numerous other orchestras, he has become the center of an intense, at times almost cult-like following. In his case, however, the followers are not starry-eyed acolytes, but rather some of the most well-informed musical intellectuals in America. For nearly thirty years, beginning with Michael Steinberg's passionate advocacy on his behalf in the pages of the Boston Globe, critics and public have been united in their praise of Zander's interpretations of the central repertory.
Dividing his time between conducting and teaching (his class on interpretation at the New England Conservatory attracts students from all over the world), Mr. Zander travels extensively, giving master classes, touring with the Conservatory's Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, and conducting guest performances. One of the unique characteristics of Mr. Zander's approach to giving a concert is to precede each performance with an illustrated talk, which is for many members of the audience an integral part of the whole experience. This is based on his belief that, given some guidance, everybody can understand and come to love great music.
Mr. Zander began working regularly with the Philharmonic Orchestra in 1995, conducting a series of Mahler symphonies to extraordinary critical acclaim. Zander's recordings with the Philharmonia on Telarc include Mahler's Symphonies Nos. 4, 5, 6, and 9, and the Fifth and Seventh symphonies of Beethoven.