Simon Gaudenz conducts the Jena Philharmonie in the second of a series of recordings of the complete Mahler Symphonies, interspersed with world-premiere recordings of pieces by Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini that reflect each symphony and pay homage to Mahler’s soundworld. This second volume features Mahler’s Second and Third Symphonies, the Second preceded by Scartazzini’s orchestral Torso (2018) and Epitaph for choir and orchestra (2019) for soprano and orchestra, and the Third by Spirit (2019). The Jena Philharmonie is joined by a host of stellar artists: soprano Jana Baumeister, contraltos Evelyn Krahe and Ida Aldrian, and the Philharmonischer Chor der Jenaer Philharmonie Knabenchor der Jenaer Philharmonie, chorus master Berit Walther.
Mahler’s symphonies represent an extraordinary body of work, and it is fascinating to hear them contrasted and commented upon by a new piece specially created to shed light on or pay tribute to that symphony. Since 2018, Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini has been Composer-in-Residence with the Jena Philharmonie, in which role he has been writing these new companion pieces to each of Mahler’s symphonies, which are being performed in Jena as a cycle in chronological order. This collaboration over a period of seven years is remarkable in many respects. At the end of the cycle there will be 10 new works, each of which can be performed individually or in groups before the Mahler symphonies, but also as full-length concert works. Scartazzini has been passionately committed to the task from the beginning, especially as Mahler’s music is particularly close to his heart: “I have a deep love for the work of Gustav Mahler; his symphonies have been my musical companions for many years, and every time I hear them again I am moved by the sheer abundance of inspiration and emotionality,” he wrote at the start of the cycle.
Scartazzini’s 2018/19 Epitaph revolves around Mahler’s Second Symphony, ‘Resurrection’, with its themes of death and eternal life: it “is an epitaph of sound, an elegiac preface to Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony”, he says. “It sets in at the climax of the previous piece, Torso. Torso – to Mahler’s First – and Epitaph – to Mahler’s Second – are interwoven, forming a larger whole and merging seamlessly”. Behind Scartazzini’s Spiriti is the “programme” of Mahler’s Third Symphony, which he mentioned to some friends but never published. There, “Pan awakens”; there speak “the animals in the forest” and the “flowers in the meadow”, the angels and love. With Spiriti, Scartazzini adds the spirits of nature to this round dance.