Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra Releases Mahler 9 Album, Led By Benjamin Zander
On Friday, February 22, 2018, the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra releases its next album Mahler 9 - Live From Boston Symphony Hall, led by conductor Benjamin Zander, on Brattle Media.
The album is Benjamin Zander's second commercial recording of Mahler's Symphony No. 9, the first with the Philharmonia Orchestra (Telarc CD-80527) earned a 1999 Grammy Nomination for Best Orchestral Performance and cemented him as "one of the foremost Mahlerians of his time," according to The Boston Globe. Twenty years later approaching his eightieth birthday in March 2019, Zander revisits a score that has, arguably, become more synonymous with his artistic identity than any other. He does so through this recording, captured before a full audience in the sublime acoustics of Boston Symphony Hall.
This is the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra's second recording for Brattle Media. Their first, a live performance of Mahler's 6th Symphony under Zander's baton, was met with a critical embrace rarely garnered by youth ensembles. The release appeared on the top-ten lists of both The Chicago Tribune and The Boston Globe, whose writers singled it out as one of the best classical albums of 2017. Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Lloyd Schwartz said of the interpretation, "this is one of the most thrilling Mahler performances I have ever heard."
Of Mahler and his Ninth Symphony, Zander wrote, "It is hardly surprising that this particular man at this particular time should have written music wrung out of the deepest recesses of his complex personality and concerned with the great issues of life and death. It is essential, then, that we allow ourselves to experience Mahler's Ninth in emotional terms-not merely as a self-indulgence, but because it is precisely in emotional terms that the work unfolds structurally. If we didn't know that Mahler faced imminent death when writing this piece, we would still know that the music could not have been written except by one who is facing the ultimate test. But the silence at the end is not the silence of death itself, or ultimate withdrawal, but of acceptance-a peace that passes all understanding."
After a 47 year history with the composer, Zander says, "Mahler would have been astonished and moved to think that his final and most profound work could be understood and realized by an orchestra of such young people." Jonathan Blumhofer of Boston's ArtsFuse recently wrote, "[The Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra is] as responsive, confident, technically skilled, and emotionally expressive an orchestra as they come" and Lew Smoley wrote in Wunderhorn, "the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra may well be considered competitive with world class ensembles."
About The Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra
In September 2012, the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra was formed under the auspices of the BPO. Conducted by Benjamin Zander, the BPYO's motto is "Shaping Future Leaders through Music." The 120 enthusiastic and talented young musicians of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra range in age from 12 to 21. The wide range of ages affords younger members of the orchestra the chance to collaborate with older students who have already begun their professional careers. In turn, collegiate members of the group are offered the opportunity to nurture and coach the future generations.
BPYO offers a unique opportunity for young instrumentalists who want to study great orchestral repertoire in a musically dynamic and intellectually challenging community. BPYO members are asked not only to master their parts and to gain a deep understanding of the musical score (including thorough regular sectional rehearsals led by top professionals from the Boston musical community), but also to engage in dialogue with Mr. Zander, through weekly "white sheets," where they are invited to share their thoughts on all aspects of the music and the rehearsal process. These conversations often lead to stimulating discussions on personal leadership and often initiate ongoing individual conversations with Mr. Zander through email, phone calls, and conversations at rehearsal, creating a unique mentoring relationship between Mr. Zander and each musician.
In the inaugural 2012-13 season, the BPYO performed two concerts to sold-out audiences in Boston's Symphony Hall and undertook a wildly successful five-city tour of the Netherlands, culminating in a performance of Mahler's Second Symphony in Amsterdam's acclaimed Concertgebouw. Six months later, in December 2013, BPYO performed at Carnegie Hall, receiving high praise in The New York Times for their "brilliantly played, fervently felt account" of Shostakovich's 5th Symphony, which was later issued by Linn Records. In 2015, the group undertook an 18-day European tour with concerts in the Czech Republic, Germany, and Switzerland, including performances in the Prague Rudolfinum, the Philharmonie of Berlin, and the Culture & Convention Center of Luzern. In 2016, BPYO performed two sold-out concerts in Carnegie Hall, and six concerts in Spain. Each international engagement has been met with top critical approval and formed life-long bonds between the orchestra and the various musical cultures of Europe. Pulitzer Prize winning critic Lloyd Schwartz, formerly of the Boston Phoenix, wrote, "I wish more professional orchestras played as thrillingly as this."
About Benjamin Zander
For the past 50 years Benjamin Zander has occupied a unique place as a master teacher, a deeply insightful and probing interpreter, and as a profound source of inspiration for people across society: in the music profession, in the corporate world, and even in politics. He has consistently engaged in a quest for insight into the western musical canon and the spiritual, social, and political issues that inspired its creation.
Zander was born near London in 1939 soon after his parents emigrated with their three older children from Nazi Germany to England. By the time he was nine, Zander's musical compositions had attracted the attention of Benjamin Britten, and that relationship, as well as his studies with Imogen Holst, daughter of Gustav Holst, became formative for his future. At 15, Ben left his home and family to study cello for five years in Florence and Cologne with the great Spanish cellist, Gaspar Cassado?. After completing his degree at the University of London, he was awarded a Harkness Fellowship which brought him to the United States. In 1965, he settled in Boston.
Zander founded the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra in 1978 and has appeared as a guest conductor with orchestras internationally. His performances have inspired legions of musicians, renewed their sense of idealism, and shed fresh, insightful, and sometimes provocative light on the interpretation of the central symphonic repertoire of the 19th and 20th centuries.
For 25 years, Zander has enjoyed a unique relationship with London's Philharmonia Orchestra. They have made eleven recordings together, including a nearly complete cycle of Mahler symphonies, as well as symphonies of Bruckner and Beethoven. High Fidelity Magazine named their recording of Mahler's 6th Symphony as Best Classical Recording of 2002; their Mahler 3rd was awarded Critic's Choice by the German Record Critics' Award Association; and their Mahler 9th and Bruckner 5th recordings were nominated for Grammy Awards for Best Orchestral Performance. Throughout his career, Zander has remained deeply committed to making classical music accessible and engaging for all listeners. An audio explanation is, for instance, included as a separate disc with each of his Philharmonia recordings.
In 2012, Zander founded the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (BPYO), which draws young musicians aged 12 to 21 from the entire northeastern US to its weekly rehearsals and performances in Boston's Symphony Hall. This tuition-free orchestra tours regularly and has performed in Carnegie Hall, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, and the Berlin Philharmonie. In the summer of 2017 the BPYO toured South America and their 2018 tour included performances of Mahler's 9th Symphony in eight European cities.
From 1965-2012, Zander was on the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC), where he taught musical interpretation and conducted the Youth Philharmonic and the Conservatory orchestras. He was the founding Artistic Director of NEC's joint program with The Walnut Hill School for the Performing Arts. Zander led the NEC Youth Philharmonic on 15 international tours and made several documentaries for PBS. His classes, "Interpretations of Music: Lessons for Life," have been viewed online by hundreds of thousands of people. In 2018, the Benjamin Zander Center was established to support this dimension of his career. Through an immersive multimedia platform, the Center provides comprehensive access to all aspects of Zander's musical work.
Zander enjoys an international career as a speaker on leadership. He has given both the opening and closing keynote at the Davos World Economic Forum, where he was honored with the Crystal Award for "Outstanding Contributions in the Arts and International Relations." The best-selling book, The Art of Possibility, co-authored with transformational philosopher Rosamund Zander, has been translated into eighteen languages. In 2002, Mr. Zander was awarded the Caring Citizen of the Humanities Award by the United Nations. In 2007, he was given the Golden Door Award by the International Institute of Boston for his "outstanding contribution to american society as a United States citizen of foreign birth." His TED talk on The Transformative Power of Classical Music has been seen by over 10 million people. This is Mr. Zander's third recording for Brattle Media. For more information, please visit the Benjamin Zander Center website at: www.benjaminzander.org