Philipp von Steinaecker conducts Mahler Academy Orchestra. Photo: Marco Caselli Nirmal/Ferrara Musica (detail) View full image

Philipp von Steinaecker to join Concertgebouw Mahler Festival

Philipp von Steinaecker’s Mahler Academy Orchestra has been selected as one of the international groups taking part in The Concertgebouw’s third Mahler Festival, just announced. They will perform the Fifth Symphony on 12 September 2024, as a preview to the main festival, which runs from 9 to 18 May 2025, as well as Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with Leif Ove Andsnes.

The orchestra plays Mahler as closely as possible to how the composer would have heard his own music performed, the result of von Steinaecker’s extensive research into Mahler’s sound world and his work with the ensemble on the Originalklang-Project. The players match techniques such as vibrato and slides to what Mahler would have expected, as well as observing performance practice of the time in concepts such as tempo and ensemble.

The players also use instruments that Mahler himself would have heard, and even bought during his time at Vienna Opera. In an article for Maestro Arts, von Steinaecker explained: ‘In his writings Mahler explains that he looked for the extremes of instruments, for their absolute limits. He wanted the flute to play as low as possible and the bassoon to shriek in its highest register. The original musicians struggled with his parts but that’s what he wanted. Of course, the musicians didn’t enjoy that, because they felt embarrassed on stage, so they would go to instrument makers and say, “Can you make me a new key so I can play this more easily?” A hundred years later, nobody really struggles technically with this music any more. With modern instruments it’s all too comfortable. Beauty happens at the edge of the abyss, though, and if you have never fallen, you have never been there. We are planning to fall and to see where the last step is.’

The festival presents the complete symphonies in numeric order, with other artists ranging from Klaus Mäkelä conducting The Concertgebouw Orchestra in Symphony no.1 and Iván Fischer conducting Budapest Festival Orchestra in Symphony no.2 through to Kirill Petrenko conducting the Berliner Philharmonic in Symphony no.9 and Daniel Barenboim conducting Berlin Philharmonic in Symphony no.10 and Das Lied von der Erde.

The Mahler Academy Orchestra’s performance will be part of a wider tour, with further dates to be announced.

Find out the full programme.

Read Philipp von Steinaecker's article about performing Mahler