An indispensable opener to a new Mahler cycle

An indispensable opener to a new Mahler cycle

Album Of The Week

norman lebrecht

April 23, 2022

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

Four vital traditions inform this recording, the first in a planned cycle by the Czech Philharmonic and its Russian-Jewish chief conductor Semyon Bychkov. Mahler grew up in Czech countryside, in a Jewish family that spoke Yiddish and German. The Czech Philharmonic gave the world premiere of his seventh symphony and keeps scores with Mahler’s markings in its archive, where I have studied them. Mahler twice visited St Petersburg where he had cousins, fostering an empathy with his music that feeds audibly into the symphonies of Dmitri Shostakovich and into Bychkov’s personal upbringing. All four of these streams inform his interpretation, making this an unusually interesting Mahler cycle before a note is sounded….

Read on here.

And here.

En francais ici


  • Henry williams says:

    Does the czech philharmonic have any foreign players.
    The names of the players seem to be only czech.

    • JBVio says:

      They’re lucky to have a deep reservoir of musical talent!

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      So what?

    • JD says:

      A couple of outsiders, that’s why they make such a beautiful sound, heard them recently in London, wonderful playing.

    • Nydo says:

      Perhaps that is one of the reasons that the orchestra maintains its individual character. You can click on almost all of the names on the website to see their backgrounds; I do recall seeing a few from neighboring countries. Bear in mind that salaries are still incredibly low in this orchestra.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Norman, I needed another recording of Mahler 4 like I needed a hole in my head. Then I listened to the new Bychkov/Czech Phil./Pentatone recording at a big-name streaming service. I liked it so much that I ordered a CD copy of it from a big-name exporter in England. Now I really do need a hole in my head . . . in the hopes that I might become less impulsive (but darn it, I want to support the release).

  • KANANPOIKA says:

    FYI: Image of Mahler by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, painted at Hvitträsk, ancestral home of the Saarinens, early November, 1907.

  • JB says:

    “Mr. Jordan should better conduct a marching band”…. not sure that this critic can be taken for serious. I heard Jordan conduct Wagner in both Paris and in Bayreuth. He is no genius, but a good reliable hand for this composer.

  • MacroV says:

    In his last three years before his death I saw Jiri Belohlavek conduct Mahler 1, 2, and 5, and Das Lied. The Czech Philharmonic can play Mahler. It just sounds right when you hear it in Prague. I look forward to this cycle.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Ernst (haughty): ‘Do we need another Mahler cycle?’

    Billy: ‘Of course we do.’

  • Herr Forkenspoon says:

    The first time I heard a recording of Mahler’s, it was his 4th. symphony with Bruno Walter conducting. On the 3rd. movement I burst into tears.

    What I like about Mahler, Monk, and Willie Nelson, is that you never know where they are going to go.

  • J Barcelo says:

    I’ll take your word for it; you are the Mahler guru. Bychkov’s earlier recording of the 3rd is among my favorites. And the lure of the Czech Phil in SACD is quite tempting. But…I was stung by the very disappointing Tchaikovsky set they did a few years ago on Decca. I had such high hopes and then it just fizzled. I hope they have better luck with Mahler.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    It is always interesting to hear the Czech Philharmonic play Mahler, not only because it is a wonderful orchestra with a distinctive character, but also because shares some of the same cultural heritage as Mahler.

    Their earlier recordings include a cycle under Vaclav Neuman, and at least two symphonies under Ancerl (1 & 9). Does anyone have informed opinions on their earlier Mahler recordings?