The incomparable lied baritone, Christian Gerhaher, revisits Gustav Mahler in his latest release Mahler: Orchestral Songs. Accompanied by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra , under the elegant baton of Kent Nagano, Gerhaher has recorded three Mahler song cycles in their authentic orchestral versions for the first time. On Mahler: Orchestral Songs, Gerhaher manages to blend with the compelling sound of the orchestra, but at the same time makes his baritone hover above the instruments, so that every word and nuance comes across without ever sounding forced. Simple in style and full of empathy, this is the art of song at its finest.
In October 2014, Michael Gielen issued a press release announcing that he had been forced to end his conducting activities for health reasons. On this occasion, and also with his 90th birthday in July 2017 in mind, it is time to listen to the different phases of a long conducting career. The Michael Gielen Edition offers this opportunity. It comprises several volumes of varying size, dedicated to individual composers or major historical periods. The recordings in this sixth volume have all been taken from the SWR’s Baden-Baden archive. Hence they are all performed by “his” orchestra, recently named the SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg. Presumably the earliest recording of a Mahler symphony conducted by Gielen was at a concert of the Hessischer Rundfunk (public broadcaster for the German state of Hessen), where the Fifth Symphony was played in December 1963, and his last recording of a Mahler symphony was the Sixth Symphony performed in a guest concert of the SWR Symphony Orchestra at the Salzburg Festival on August 21, 2013.
The Seventh remains the least well-known of all Mahler's symphonies. Precisely because its material is so enormously wide-ranging, its colors so thrillingly kaleidoscopic, this work is also perhaps the one from all the composer's canon most reliant on a knowing, strong-willed interpretive presence. This Michael Tilson Thomas provides in spades in one of his finest performances on disc.