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

Praise for Philipp von Steinaecker’s Mahler

Philipp von Steinaecker's recording of Mahler's Ninth Symphony, performed by Mahler Academy Orchestra on instruments that the composer himself would have known, using performance practice of the time, was released on Alpha Classics last week and is already receiving excellent reviews


'Mahler's Ninth, which likes to be played and heard as a legacy, as a farewell work, premiered in 1912, is now available in a sensational new recording that would have earned ten stars for my ears - a pity, but I can only give five. I don't know if it's also because I haven't heard Mahler for a long time; everyone has their moods. But this recording of the Mahler Academy Orchestra under Philipp von Steinaecker immediately makes me the Mahlerian I once was.

'Moreover, with all the disaster and despair that dominates the Ninth, this brings me closer to its bright, bright moments. This is thanks to the fluid tempos and the historical instruments on which the musicians play.'

★★★★★

SWR Kultur


'All the participants have succeeded with flying colours in translating their historical research into a spectacular, sensual sound that builds a bridge between the present and the past.'

★★★★★

Rondo


‘One is quite convinced after just a quarter of an hour that if you are stranded on an island with something other than this recording in the foreseeable future, you should perhaps try swimming.’

Welt


'It is quite obvious that Steinaecker uses the instruments to sharpen his ideas. The sighs at the beginning are so pronounced that they almost make you dizzy, the brass constantly sets anxious accents, and so the first movement takes on a highly irritating character, in which Mahler’s sometimes theatrically expressed state of mind, characterized by fear and insecurity, is fully expressed in a kaleidoscope of images of a fulfilled and yet very special life, rich in strokes of fate, which pass us by acoustically, grimacing, in an alternation of heavenly jubilation and death brooding.

'The second movement, the Ländler, takes on a truly hearty, rustic quality with Steinacker and his musicians, while the Rondo-Burleske confronts us with a frenetic and extremely bizarre hustle and bustle: you can’t play it any crazier and more uncontrolled.

'This makes the beginning of the Adagio all the more effective in its alternation of power and tender restraint, with a powerful rebellion before the final collapse. One does not always experience this symphony with such significance.'

★★★★★

Pizzicato


'The balance, homogeneity of sound, and the sound characteristics of instruments from the beginning of the 20th century make this recording extremely valuable. What is particularly impressive, however, is the artistic concept implemented by von Steinaecker, the essence of which are swinging rubato tempos and a huge dynamic range, influencing emotions in the reception, as well as the excellent playing of the Mahler Academy Orchestra. A real pearl of historical performance, which is not colourless archeology, but a manifestation of the fullness of life.'

Radio Kraków Kultura


'This recording of Mahler's Ninth Symphony is an unusual listening experience that combines historical accuracy with musical excellence. With their dedication and skills, the Mahler Academy Orchestra and Philipp von Steinaecker have created an interpretation that makes the beauty and complexity of Mahler's last completed symphony appear in a new light. Here, not only music is reproduced, but a piece of history is made alive - a tribute to Mahler and his incomparable musical vision.'

Online Merker


'Listening to Mahler's Ninth with original instruments is a welcome journey of discovery. Taken by the hand by young enthusiasts and "old hands" - like the trombonists of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. In a way, a musical summer resort for the ear. Just close your eyes and listen, listen, listen.'

Radio Klassik


'A clear indication that the relay race baton has been successfully handed off, and that ongoing and future interpretations of Mahler's music are in competent hands. The 9th is not the usual entry point for most conductors dipping their toes into the Mahler ocean, but German cellist and conductor Philipp von Steinaecker leads a gripping account in keeping with its time of conception at the onset of the 20th century.'

Classical Music Sentinel


'Without compromising integrity it questions some of the traditions and dogma which straitjacket classical music. Forget the original sound and period instrument labels. Philipp von Steinaecker and the Gustav Mahler Academy have dared to be different and challenged sonic preconceptions. The difference may be nuanced but it is there and it is very successful. It may be one small step forward, but audience expectations, particularly with regard to sound, are changing. The purist classical music community can learn a lot from the original sound project about how to be more broad-minded about sonic and other change.'

Overgrown Path



In an interview about the project in 2022, von Steinaecker said: '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... 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.'

He was also interviewed about the project by BBC Radio 3's Saturday Morning programme about the project, available on BBC Sounds (from 2:38:54).

Listen on Spotify or Apple Music.


Philipp von Steinaecker and Mahler Academy Orchestra tour in September, playing Mahler's Fifth Symphony and Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto with Leif Ove Andsnes:
Festival Dolomites, Toblach (8 September)
Bolzano Festival (10 September)
Vienna Konzerthaus (11 September)
Amsterdam Concertgebouw (12 September)
Cologne Philharmonie (13 September)
Paris Philharmonie (15 September)


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Read an interview about the project with Philipp von Steinaecker