The next Mahler cycle will come from … Minnesota

March 16, 2018 by norman lebrecht


The Minnesota Orchestra has recorded the Fifth, Sixth and Second Symphonies on BIS since June 2016. The First and Fourth Symphonies will be recorded this month and June. Next season they will do Seventh and Tenth.

They seem to have the field to themselves at present.



Comments (71)

  1. msc says:

    I greatly admire Vanska and his partnership with the Minnesota Orch., but how I wish that they were giving us something a bit less well covered than Mahler. There is still room in BIS’s catalogue for more Saeverud (that would be my first choice), Langgaard, Britten (I have heard a very good Sinfonia da Requiem from them), Panufnik, Miaskovsky, Taneyev, Rubinstein, Raff, Szymanowski, … The list is huge.

    1. Michael says:

      I agree with you. I like the orchestra and the composer, but that ship has sailed. There is fresher repertoire out there that I’ve heard them do that would have made a better statement.

    2. The View from America says:

      Yet another Mahler symphony cycle is about as exciting as a cold mashed potato sandwich.

      1. The View from America says:


      2. Novagerio says:

        A shallow, slow and completely downright boring Fifth, sorry.

        1. Sixtus says:

          Maybe it gets better after the limp first movement, but I didn’t have the patience to continue listening. He kept dropping the rhythmic tension. Moved to the next album in my Spotify to-audition list.

      3. will says:

        Mahler 5th/ Vanska/ Minnesota:
        David Hurwitz disagrees with you.

        1. Sixtus says:

          Too bad for him.

    3. Ricardo says:

      So glad to see Sæverud mentioned in a forum such as this. He and his music have been a major part of my life (knew him personally for five years). There are two symphonic cycles recorded already, both of them ranging from tepid to almost acceptable (with some occasional high points) and riddled with wrong notes that have been in the printed scores for ages and no-one has bothered to question nor, therefore, correct. There are hardly any authoritative recordings of his symphonic music besides the superb Peer Gynt with Miltiades Caridis. It is high time someone rises to the challenge of doing Sæverud’s orchestral music with full commitment (which is the only thing he ever accepted) and understanding.
      I saw/heard Vänska conduct Sæverud’s bassoon concerto in Bergen in 1990 (or 89, not certain).

    4. Stephen says:

      We have really good cycles of Symphonies of Panufnik, Raff, Miaskovsky, et. al. so no new needed views there. However, I’ve wondered why BIS hasn’t ventured into the American Symphonists. Wouldn’t it be great to get a William Schuman cycle? How about a new recording of John Vincent’s marvelous Symphony in D? John Harbison?

      What about BIS attacking the Brits? I’d love to see Mark Wigglesworth tackle a Mathias cycle, or maybe Wordsworth or H. Brian? I know all the HB Symphonies are now available on a mish-mash of labels, but wouldn’t a box set of all 32 look sexy on my CD wall? Hey, a fella can dream, can’t he?

      As for Saeverud…meh.

      1. Ricardo says:

        I see you do not get Sæveruf, and it is not entirely your fault. But if you have really listened you will not write “meh”
        As for a Brian cycle, that WOULD be lovely indeed.

        1. Ricardo says:

          … I meant SæveruD :p
          I’m afraid not many people get Brian either…

        2. Stephen says:

          I have listened to Sæverud deeply, and I still say ‘Meh.’ As far as Scandinavia is concerned, I’d love to see a new cycle of Einer Englund Syms…box set, please…thanks to BIS for perpetuating the Pettersson cycle. Can’t wait for the box. Who dreamed that we’d have two, count ’em TWO box sets of Pettersson Symphonies some day. I remember when all we had was Dorati’s super fine recording of 7. Anders Nilsson’s amazing Symphony 2 needs a commercial recording. How about Norway’s Olav Kielland, The list goes on and on. Too many symphonies, too few recordings. Halvor Haug?

          1. Robert von Bahr says:

            You don’t have – and will not have – TWO sets of Pettersson symphonies. The CPO Box is not complete and will not be. They lack Symphony 1 and the fragment of 17. So BIS’s will be the only really complete one.

          2. Ricardo says:

            I also am very grateful for the Pettersson cycle with Ch. Lindberg, of which I have bought all the CDs except the newest (will soon)
            And, to the very admired Mr von Bahr, I’m also very grateful for the Stavanger Sæverud recordings. My problem is that, having worked closely with the composer, I perceive the elements that are missing from the performances more keenly, particularly from the symphonies, although nos. 2,3 and 9 are excellent. And certainly better than the Bergen recordings in general.

          3. Tony Sanderson says:

            Following Robert’s comment, it was to hear the fragment of Allan Pettersson’s symphony 17 and symphony 1 that started buying the Lindberg cycle.

    5. Tony Sanderson says:

      I can remember Kublelik and Bernstein and then Haitink and Solti completing their cycles. It was all so new and pioneering. Now Mahler is mainstream, great though that is.

      So to join the club of obscure symphonies who should be recorded, I would suggest Vamska heads back to Scandinavia. Try Allan Pettersson from Sweden (start with his seventh) or Einojuhani Rautavaara from Finland (start with his eihgth). A great contemporary symphonist is Erkki-Sven Tüür from Estonia.

      I’m not sure how many would agree, but I think Sir Malcolm Arnold is underrated. He was a man who could write tuneful music, but in his symphonies his inner demons are not fat below the surface and his inner pain often comes out. Like Pettersson he had mental health problems. I would encourage Slipped Disc readers to give them a try.

      Just to say it’s great that Sir Simon Ratlle is reviving the Rose Lake by Sir Michael Tippett. That has long been my favourite orchestral piece by Sir Michael.

      1. Robert von Bahr says:

        Tony Sanderson wrote:
        So to join the club of obscure symphonies who should be recorded, I would suggest Vamska heads back to Scandinavia. Try Allan Pettersson from Sweden (start with his seventh) or Einojuhani Rautavaara from Finland (start with his eihgth). A great contemporary symphonist is Erkki-Sven Tüür from Estonia.

        I’m not sure how many would agree, but I think Sir Malcolm Arnold is underrated. He was a man who could write tuneful music, but in his symphonies his inner demons are not fat below the surface and his inner pain often comes out. Like Pettersson he had mental health problems. I would encourage Slipped Disc readers to give them a try.

        My answer:
        Allan Pettersson did not have any mental problem whatsoever. He had a incredibly painful case of arthritis that almost totally crippled him. Sometimes he called me in the middle of the night just to scream out his pain. Nothing mental at all!!!
        As regards your suggestion, you prove my point. We ARE doing just what you suggest, and you just don’t know. We have the Pettersson cycle almost complete, with the 7th twice at that – BIS-880 with Segerstam and BIS-2240 SACD with Christian Lindberg – the latter just released. If you want to download, go to
        Vänskä has already recorded the Rautavaara 8th for us, readily available whenever you want: BIS-1315.

        If you and people like you actually went and bought the records, freely available, we might be put in the position where we could go on with this kind of repertoire! You really prove my point.

        1. Tony Sanderson says:


          Thanks for your email. In fact I have some of your Pettersson recordings recorded by Christian Lindberg. The ones I own are 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 16 as well as the BIS recordings Concerto for Strings No.1,2 & 3 for String Orchestra and The Barefoot Songs and Symphony No. 5 and the Viola Concerto. I also have the complete set of Symphonies on the CPO label both on CD and download. I buy these via iTunes. In fact I have another recording of the seventh. Sergiu Comissiona’s is my favourite and I have played it many times as I love this symphony so much. I wish it could be played at an upcoming BBC Proms so a new generation of music lovers in the UK could experience it in the concert hall for themselves.

          I apologise profusely if I wrongly ascribed a mental health condition to Allan Pettersson and for any offence that may have caused. I hope I have demonstrated my great affection for his music by sharing the fact of my purchases with you and that will help us to a cordial appreciation Allan’s music.

          I am aware that BIS has recorded the Rautuvaara symphonies and other works as I own some of these too.

          I think the point of the thread was “do we need any more Mahler?” and so my suggestion was to boost Allan’s music by a maestro like Otto playing his music in America.

          So again many apologies for any offence caused. With warm regards,

          Tony Sanderson

          I think the point of the dialogue generally

        2. Tony Sanderson says:


          Further to my earlier post, I realise I was being a bit thick, as we say in England, in implying that BIS wasn’t recording Pettersson or Rautuvaara. I hadn’t put together that Osmo Vänskä and Pettersson recordings were both on BIS. I do in fact have the Mahler 5 as well as both his Sibelius symphonies.

          So I am a big BIS fan in gerneral.

          Best Wishes again,

          Tony Sanderson

        3. Tony Sanderson says:


          Thanks for mentioing the BIS download store which I hadn’t come across before.

          I will explore this especially as you offer studio masters.


  2. Fred says:

    This could be the greatest Mahler cycle ever, and it would still be unnecessary (other than perhaps for honing the orchestra’s chops). I agree with MSC that covering some newer and/or more obscure composers would have been a better choice.

    1. The View from America says:


    2. Cubs Fan says:

      Not from what I’ve heard. I bought the first release – the Fifth – and it was a major disappointment. The BIS sound quality is terrific, the orchestra gets all the notes right, but the interpretation is just all wrong. I am fully aware that great music can take a lot of interpretive points of view, but this just seemed so wrong on so many levels.Where’s the vehemence in the 2nd movement? The finale just drags. The Adagietto is so slow that it loses coherence. Vanska is the only conductor to get the 5th wrong. I won’t be buying anymore. Maybe it’s me, but I wasn’t impressed by his cycles of Beethoven or Sibelius in Minnesota either. And the last thing we need is any more Mahler unless it’s really special. Maybe Mahler sells disks, I don’t know. Does anything sell these days besides John Williams?

      1. Bruce says:

        “Vanska is the only conductor to get the 5th wrong.”


        1. Cubs Fan says:

          Oops! I meant “NOT the only conductor”. Even Bernstein had trouble with it

          1. Sixtus says:

            For me the toughest movement in the 5th is the 3rd, which is where most performances have trouble cohereing, same with the last movement of the 7th. BTW I believe the historical record shows that Mahler wanted the Adagietto to last around 9 minutes. Vanska takes 12 1/2. Immediate disqualification.

          2. Michael says:

            It’s true that Vanska stretches the adagietto out to astronomical lengths, but it’s extremely pretty and quite moving. And if all performances were the same, how boring would that be? Therefore, not disqualified or even close.

  3. KUNDRY says:

    I agree with MSC – Panufnik ,Miaskovsky, Raff, etc . – the more obscure , the better. Nobody needs a whole Mahler cycle with a correct and nondescript American orchestra , conducted by the eminently uninteresting Osmo. I agree with MICHAEL – that ship has sailed ! We have enough greats on audio and video. The only discussion is about the quality of the sound/video system on which to play the greats.
    Finally, I tremble at the thought that another “major talent” – Yannick Nezet of Montreal ,would contemplate such a cycle , just as he gifted us the eminently forgettable Mozart DG recordings with Vilazon .

    1. George King says:

      Vanska is not eminently uninteresting (have you heard his clarinet playing in recent, relatively obscure repertoire?), but I agree wholeheartedly that more unknown repertoire needs airing by this outstanding orchestra and conductor. That said, I heard a supremely outstanding Mahler 7th from him and the Finnish Radio SO in Helsinki in late 2012.

      1. Michael says:

        I think he’s an interesting conductor. Those of us who have heard him and the orchestra live in concert know the excitment they bring to the music. In my opinion, the studio recordings do not capture the energy that is readily apparent in concert. Perhaps it’s BIS and their need for perfection at fault. Too many takes? I find their studio versions of the sibelius symphonies dull compared to their live versions. Also, the conductor’s active repertoire is pretty all encompassing, but you really wouldn’t know that by taking a look at recent discographies or even concert performances for that matter. I’ve heard outstanding performances by all sorts of composers performed by this conductor and orchestra but those works have rarely been taken on tour by them, and certainly not recorded. Osmo almost always has a fresh take on things.

    2. Siegfried says:

      Your view of Raff matches my view of Mahler, a composer whose circus music doesn’t wear well at all. What clamor and racket, what desperate marketing of shoddy goods!
      I propose a 20 year moratorium on performances of Mahler. So many works
      of so many composers have fallen victim to the Mahler Industry and its brightly cynical priests and bamboozled audiences. Phooey.

      1. Stephen says:

        How do you REALLY feel, Siegfried?

      2. buxtehude says:

        And yet there are Swiss today who take the obscurity of Raff quite personally, imagining that it’s because of his Swiss (at least technically) nationality. In their hunt for a composer to put on the money Arthur Honegger (who was even less Swiss — born in France, lived & died in Paris) ended up on the 20 SF note.

        OT I know, sorry.

    3. The View from America says:


  4. Rob says:

    Who’s off to see Yannick Nézet-Séguin conduct Mahler 8 in Rotterdam next Sunday ?!

    1. Tony Sanderson says:

      It’s being streamed on Medici TV tomorrow night if you are a subscriber.

  5. Kundry says:

    Sorry, I cannot go to Rotterdam. I am mowing my lawn. The motor is almost as loud as the beginning of Mahler 8th and the rest is a lot more interesting than watching sophomore YNS jumping around.

  6. Michael Horwood says:

    My vote for the most needed symphony survey: the Latvian Janis Ivanovs.

  7. MacroV says:

    Some of you may miss one of the points of recording. Sure, getting interesting, neglected repertoire out there is a worthwhile thing to do. But orchestras record as much for reputation as anything, so they presumably want to record something that shows they can play the well-known, heavyweight rep as well as more renowned bands. And Mahler may be sufficiently recorded by now, but to my knowledge the only American orchestras to have done full Mahler cycles are Abravanel/Utah (not the best played but probably the most consequential), CSO/Solti, SF/MTT. Even NYPO/Bernstein is incomplete (missing the 8th).

    It’s probably not for sales; as Norman regularly points out, nobody buys CDs anymore.

  8. Graeme Withers says:

    Only bought one CD set in twelve months – The Trojans with Joyce DiDonato from Strasbourg, and that as a birthday present for a JDD fan. I hoard my Tennstedt Mahler CDs as mementos of Royal Festival Hall concerts I went to, and my Abbado Mahler commercial DVDs from concerts I wish I had been to. But YouTube is winning – Abbado’s Song of the Earth, and the Third from Ferrara. Goodbye CDs.

  9. Yeh Shen says:

    Looking forward to it. Minnesota is such a truly wonderful orchestra.

  10. Robert von Bahr says:

    Hello, all,

    at some stage, when I truly feel for it, I will write a small thesis about being a record producer/label executive and all the weighty arguments for and against basically any decision that is taken, especially when it comes to repertoire.
    In the meantime, perhaps I may be asking all those above, who are craving for “unknown” repertoire, where they AND THEIR WALLETS ARE, when we acquiesce to their wishes. I am asking, since the following composers actually have been heavily sponsored by yours truly, but are selling in quantities that hardly pay for the flight tickets for the production team, much less anything else, and only exist, because I have put my private money at good use to record them, recognizing their genius:

    – Kalevi Aho (in my view the most genius composer alive) – more than 30 records!!! (actually 32 out and 3 in the can)
    – Sebastian Fagerlund – another incredibly gifted Finn – 5 SACD:s and an Ingmar Bergman opera coming soon
    – Alfred Schnittke – 38 records (yes, 38 – I was the one to introduce him to the West, with Kremer and Rozhdestvensky)
    – Harald Sæverud – 12 CD:s, incl. almost all the symphonies (direct answer to above)
    – Jón Leifs – Iceland’s unique composer – 22 records – next one recorded this month
    – Nikos Skalkottas – Greece’s misunderstood genius – 17 CD:s, one coming soon
    – Geirr Tveitt – the unique Norwegian – 9 records
    – Vagn Holmboe – Denmark’s most important composer after Nielsen – 19 CD:s
    – Allan Pettersson – Sweden’s Mahler, only better – 16 discs
    – James MacMillan – 10 records
    – Sally Beamish – 10 records
    – Sofia Gubaidulina – 14 records
    – Aulis Sallinen – 9 records
    – Einojuhani Rautavaara – 17 records

    The list doesn’t end there by a long shot.

    Now to the horrible truth – of these 230 records, I can think only of less than 20 that have actually made back their financial investments – all the rest is because of my personal commitment to the living music, its composers and artists, funded by me, NOT you, the record-non-buying public.

    So, my friends, when my dear partner Osmo and his wonderful band want to do a Mahler cycle, please let us do so in peace and quiet without feeling a bad conscience for not doing everything else at the same time. We’re already now doing a LOT more than is sound business.

    Thank you all – Robert (von Bahr, CEO, Founder and owner of BIS Records, Sweden)([email protected])

    1. MBH says:

      Thanks for your dedication, and to all those record producers who have given us so much obscure repertoire throughout the years. (And deepest gratitude for the symphonies of Alfven and Tubin and especially the Sibelius Edition). What is so irritating and regrettable is that for all the interesting music recorded it has done nothing to change the standard repertoire of American orchestras – they are stuck in replaying the 19th c masterworks over and over and losing potential ticket buyers like me. Is it any different in Europe? I don’t need to hear Tchaikovsky 5 or Beethoven 9 in concert ever again. Any of the composers you listed would be welcome relief, but alas, it will never happen. So if a Mahler cycle can raise funding for other less profitable, or non-profitable, ventures, so be it.

    2. Michael says:

      I agree. The BIS recordings take up a sizeable portion of my CD shelving. The catalog is high-quality and expansive. I just opened the shrink wrap on my most recent purchase yesterday – the Bernstein disc with Christian Lindberg and the Royal Liverpool. I personally buy primarily BIS and Chandos recordings at this point. Any other additions to my collection are reissues from Sony or Universal. Frankly, without companies like BIS around I would surely lose interest entirely.

    3. Robert von Bahr says:

      How could I possibly have missed another really important discovery:

      Eduard Tubin – 16 records
      And the complete symphony cycle of Alfvén and almost complete of Nystroem.

      Oh dear!


      1. Tony Sanderson says:


        BIS should also be praised for its recording of symphonies by Sir James MacMillan as well as his Sinfonietta and “Tryst”, his string quartets, his opera “Clemency”, “The Confession of Isabel Gowdie, and his clarinet and trumpet concertos.

        Worthy of praise are Yevgeny Sudbin’s recordings of Nikolai Medtner’s paino concerto No. 3 (Winner of the 2016 International Classical Music Award) on the BIS lavel that introduced me to this composer whose music is now being recognised. He settled in London in 1936 having emigrated in Russia.


      2. Tony Sanderson says:


        If you forgive me, but I would like to make a request if your budget allows. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies symphonies, 7, 8 and 9 are not available commercially as far as I can tell. Have you considered these? His 8th (Antarctic Symphony) was composed after he stayed in Antartica himself to experience the conditions there. That shows his real committment to his art.

        Best Wishes,


    4. Tony Sanderson says:


      Thanks again for all your work. I had never heard of Harald Sæverud until this thread started.

      So I will certainly give him a try as well some of the other composers you have mentioned.

      I see Mahler 6 is out on iTunes in the UK next month so I will look forward to that.


    5. Barry Michael Okun says:

      It is to my financial disadvantage, and your financial advantage, that I own most of those records.

      I’ll die a pauper — but at least I’ve done my bit for music.

      1. Robert von Bahr says:

        No. You’ll die a rich man. Rich in experiences, rich in knowledge. An SACD is about the price of 3 beers in a pub.
        The SACD gives you a lifetime of pleasure/experiences.
        We all know what happens to a beer the next day.
        Thanks for your support.

        1. Christopher Culver says:

          Your Swedishness is showing, Mr. von Bahr. Not everywhere has the sky-high prices for alcohol in a pub. Where I live, a BIS SACD is the price of over 10 beers. 🙂

          I understand that SACDs will always be expensive due to the manufacturing costs for this niche format. However, I personally think that BIS would see a spike in sales if you simply moved a lot of your catalogue to the mid-price range instead of keeping it at full price.

          I believe you have said somewhere that you wish to keep things full-price because lowering prices only encourages buying sprees where people don’t treasure what they have. However, a lot of classical music listeners are going on BIS collecting sprees; they are just ripping the CDs from the library or downloading the recordings from filesharing communities instead of purchasing them.

          When I make my CD purchasing decisions based on my limited means each month, choosing to buy a BIS recording over, say, one from Dacapo (a label that has abundant mid-price and budget offers) is always a difficult decision.

          1. Robert von Bahr says:

            Swedishness? Perhaps. Last time I was in London I went to an Arsenal match. The beers in the adjacent pub were 1/3 of a regular BIS record in a regular shop. If you get 10 beers for a BIS record, it is because people understand the value of the latter :-). Never mind – we STILL know where the beer goes the next day.

            Prices. We have experimented. Made practically no difference. Much of our repertoire is so special that, if you want it, price is of minor consideration, and if you don’t, price is of minor consideration :-). I think it is called demand elasticity, and that is very low. Quality costs, it is actually as easy as that.

            What you say I have said doesn’t have any resemblance whatsoever to the truth. I have neither said nor meant that. But what you say about ripping and stealing is probably true. Which only means that we will not be able to continue producing precisely what the thieves want to have. Shortsighted in the extreme, but you’re probably right.

            BIS vs Dacapo (a very good and interesting Danish label): See the difference between a label, which has to go it alone, and a State-supported label. Nothing wrong with State support for the Art, but different countries, different rules, and fair competition it is not. However, they are good, and if you find what you want there, good luck to you.

          2. Christopher Culver says:

            “What you say I have said doesn’t have any resemblance whatsoever to the truth.”

            I apologise, then, I must be confusing you with some other label head I once read in interview.

            But again, I feel you are overlooking just how expensive BIS releases can be to those outside Sweden. Take Eastern Europe, for instance, where I live and work. In any given month, I will be exposed to, say, 10 CDs that I enjoy and which I would like to own. If they are from an invariably full-price label like BIS or Neos, then that means 250€/month spent only on CDs. That’s a quarter of my salary. Sorry, that is just not going to happen.

            I realize that BIS faces a tough market, and I do try to be strategic in my purchases. For example, I have always bought each new Allan Pettersson CD from BIS as soon as it is released, because I understand that this project represents a major financial challenge for BIS. I have tried to buy every Sofia Gubaidulina release, though I find myself falling behind. But buying all of BIS’s Vagn Holmboe or Kalevi Aho releases, to name only two series that have really won me over, is simply beyond my reach when I’m not rich and other labels are competing for my money. I can only dip into BIS.

            That is why I asked if you considered dropping much of your old catalogue to mid-price, because for me personally that would significantly help in being able to actually buy all of that music that I have already discovered elsewhere. I’m sorry to hear that you experimented with this and it didn’t produce good results. (Though I do wonder if you mean that you dropped standard catalogue releases to mid-price, or you are talking about those odd mid-price reissues of bits from earlier CDs like, IIRC, the Sofia Gubaidulina “In the Mirror” release.)

          3. Robert von Bahr says:

            Dear Christopher,
            what you say does make sense, and I understand your dilemma.
            If Norman doesn’t consider this too brash, I would, though, state that you can get a BIS CD/SACD (same price anyway) for MUCH less than €25 per piece. The worst case with our own homepage is €20 incl. postage and pack, and, if you buy more than one, the price goes down with the postage. Similarly, there are lots of places, especially in England, where the price is far less than what you imply.

            The problem with reducing price is that there are factors that remain the same: the recording costs don’t change, the production price doesn’t change, the copyright costs don’t change, the freight charges don’t change – only the income does. So, in order to make that work, we would have to sell a very high percentage more, and we just don’t. And, in the end of the day – if people do want to have the music, they really must pay (albeit not what you state). If not enough many do, and we don’t get subsidies, well, that’s it. Even BIS have a limit.
            The advent of streaming, while great in principle; the way it works out now, we end up with about 3/10 of a EURO-Cent (0,4 US Cent, 0,26 Penny) per stream regardless of the duration of the track – this money to be split with the artists. Try to defray a production cost of 30-40’000 EUROs with that.
            But it is a wonderful profession! I so love it.

          4. Saxon Broken says:


            Your prices are reasonable. Personally, I rarely spend more than about £10 per disc, and I have many BIS recordings.

            Can’t you set the price when allowing streaming?

          5. Robert von Bahr says:

            Set my own pårices?
            No. I can allow, or not, but that’s it.


    6. Tony Sanderson says:


      In your list of composers recorded on BIS, you refer to Kalevi Aho as the greatest composer alive. To someone who is new to his music, where would suggest I start exploring his works, i.e. which of your 30 or so recordings would make a good starting point?

      I look forward to your response.

      Best Wishes,

      Tony Sanderson

      1. Robert von Bahr says:

        The Flute Concerto, commissioned by me, is a great piece, so emotionally strong that, quite often, people go home in the interval, since they cannot take any more emotions in one evening. Sharon has played it in 5 continents, dozens of times. BIS-1499
        Or, basically, anything else – Kalevi Aho is a genius – a true composer. He composes in his head, not with a piano or synt. When he is ready, he goes to his country place, a house on a skerry, without electricity or running water, but with a lot of paper and pencils, but no eraser, and writes the score down, from beginning to the end. Doesn’t change anything – it’s ready. Now, who else does that today? And he has learned to play all the instruments he writes for, incl. piano, violin, flute, double bassoon, tuba, theremin, cello, you name it.
        They don’t make them like that anymore. G-E-N-I-U-S

        1. buxtahude says:

          Very strong memory, would be another way of putting it.

          As for geniuses, Shostakovich proceeded that with at least with his 24 Preludes & Fugues for Piano, and Martinu generally.

        2. Tony Sanderson says:


          Thanks for your very prompt reply. I will start with the flute concerto then.

          Shostakovich wrote that Glazunov was very adept that playing a range of instruments, but it sounds like Kalevi Aho is in a different league altogether. I am looking forward to this next leg of my musical journey, so thanks again for your prompt reply.

          Best Wishes again,


        3. Robert von Bahr says:

          Look, I didn’t say that he is the only genius that has existed. Just the No 1 today. Ask him to complete Schubert 8, and Schubert will do it, through him. He has completed several works by Klami or Sibelius in a way that noone would know the difference and he has orchestrated Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death in a congenial way (BIS-325 with Martti Talvela). I am just waiting for him to have a go at the “Pictures” – now that would be something.

          My experience of many composers today is of someone sitting playing around with a synt, and when something palatable comes up, hits “add to memory”. Hopefully I am wrong or exaggerating. But when I hear the real deal, I go for it. He puts ferocious demands on the players, and very few soloists are good enough to cope with them, but, when they succeed, the results are so worth it. We’re just about to release his Timpani Concerto. Now how boring can that be, with the very limited arsenal at the soloist’s disposal? Yet, I am sitting mesmerised through its 30+ minutes. His Oboe Concerto that takes us right into the Arab sound-scape? His Bassoon Concerto (shared with Sebastian Fagerlund’s Concerto), which is nominated for BBC Music Magazine’s Concerto Award in 2 weeks. His series of “Solo” for basically all instruments that take them to almost unplayable extremes, but are so musically rewarding? The reason he composed the Flute Concerto for her was that Sharon Bezaly – as the first player ever – actually managed to play his “Solo for Flute” – a piece that he basically withdrew, because he wasn’t happy with the attempts (BIS-1159). His 17 symphonies.

          Yes, I am going on a bit, I know. It is only the frustrated feeling that we have discovered a most incredible composer and musician, and – while very well known with professionals and totally inundated with commissions – are experiencing real difficulties in making him known to the world at large.

          But I don’t care – we are going to promote him and his music as long as I have anything to say at BIS! And the buck stops with me.
          Why don’t you listen to the Flute Concerto, Norman? It’s a revelation.

          Robert von Bahr

          1. Tony Sanderson says:


            I have now purchased and listened to Kaveli Aho’s flute concerto. It is unique to my ears. I don’t think I have ever heard a flute concerto with such gravitas. I won’t make any more comments until I have played it a few times. I have also bought one of the albums of his symphonies, but at the moment I am bowled over by Christian Lindberg’s recording of Allan Pettersson’s seventh symphony.

            What a powerful performance!

            As a Northampton man, it was nice to see Sharon include a piece by Sir Malcolm Arnold in her album of solo flute music.

            With Best Wishes to you and BIS records

        4. Tony Sanderson says:


          Congratulations on BIS winning the BBC Music Magazine 2018 Concerto Award for Bram van Sambeek’s recording of Fagerlund and Aho’s Bassoon Concertos. Good to see theswe composers and this artist being honoured and hopefully others will learn of their music.

          Best Wishes,


  11. JohnG says:

    Not entirely the field to themselves: there’s an interesting cycle coming out from Dusseldorf under Adam Fischer.

    1. Sixtus says:

      And brother Ivan Fischer has a superb cycle in progress with the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Fascinating interpretations, superb sonics fully equal to BIS-quality plus the orchestral strings deployed in authentic Mahlerian fashion (split violins, cellos left, violas right), the only arrangement where all the stereophonic effects Mahler intended can come through. The recordings I’ve heard of the cycles of MTT/SFO, Nott/Bamberg, Gergiev/LSO and Kubelik/BRSO also use this setup as does the Vanska cycle in question (at least going by the 5th and the 2nd movement of the 6th available out at Apple music.)

      1. Sixtus says:

        PS: A quick audition via streaming from Apple music of Mahler 1,4,5, and 7 with Adam Fischer shows he uses a bastardized ‘compromise’ orchestral layout: split violins but with violas left and cellos right. Aside from having no Mahler-era precedent it is my experience with this setup both in live performances (Gilbert/NYPO) and in recordings that it is the viola line that get lost/covered — an unexpected result. I’m sticking with Ivan Fischer.

  12. Don Hohoho says:

    What was exciting was their Mahler cycle with Tennstedt, whether it was recorded or not.

  13. Don Hohoho says:

    Have the complete works of Faure ever been recorded? I have yet to hear his Prometheus. And what about Enescu? His Oedipe is a masterpiece.

    1. Barry Guerrero says:

      Amazon shows three different recordings of “Oedipe” being available today. One of them has a big-name cast too. It’s a good work, but, for me, nowhere on the level of a Mahler symphony or most of Mahler’s songs. That’s just me. However, I do agree that there’s more than enough Mahler out there.

      As for Faure, there have been box sets of his songs and box sets of his chamber works. I’m sure the orchestral works are easy to obtain. Certainly there have been many recordings of his lovely, cool headed Requiem.

      As a side-note, I’m not so sure that the Adam Fischer/Dusseldorf Mahler I’ve heard isn’t as good or better than Ivan Fischer’s Mahler. There’s also a third Fischer working his way through Mahler too: Thierry Fischer in Utah (Reference Recordings). They recently released a very solid Mahler 8 from the Mormon Tabernacle, one with a consistently good cast of soloists as well.

  14. Peter Kislinger says:

    Well, talking of greatness, originality, genius – I do not hesitate a sec to agree that Kalevi Aho does belong in this category. I have all Aho-BIS records (and the few from other labels too) BUT: I miss the late ANDERS ELIASSON being mentioned. At the end of a 90-minute interview in 2001, I asked Kalevi Aho to name one contemporary composer he was impressed by — I had hardly finished my question he said in typical staccato style “ANDERS ELIASSON!” stabbing holes with his forefinger into the air. Eliasson´s 4th symphony still needs to be recorded (so far there´ve been four conductors who have conducted this great work in concert: Poppe, Manze, Storgards, Oramo; his Trombone Concerto, played by Christian Lindberg, was recorded 7 years ago (by BIS!) – yet has not been released; his Concerto for Bass Clarinet as well as his concerto for Clarinet remain unrecorded; his symphonic oratorio “Dante Anarca” was performed twice 2 years ago (RSP, Oramo) – no recording. We do have his 3rd Symphony (for Kelly´s Alto Sax, Segerstam, Finnish Radio SO); Anders Paulsson – in a version for Soprano Sax, has recorded it (BIS, I think); and there are rumours that Janine Jansen might record his Violion concerto “Einsame Fahrt”.

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