PhilHarmonia Octet Prague, one of the most distinct representatives of the Czech wind tradition, and the outstanding German baritone Peter Schöne have made a remarkable Gustav Mahler album, set for imminent release on Supraphon. Of the 24 songs comprising the cycle Des Knaben Wunderhorn, they have recorded ten, those best suited to a wind ensemble. Supraphon will release the album on CD and in digital formats on Friday 10 March 2023.
Opting for wind instruments makes sense, given that in his childhood Mahler’s musical vocabulary was formed in part by listening frequently to the Jihlava military band. His music is interwoven with military motifs, with wind instruments being afforded a prominent position. The chamber arrangements on the new album show an interesting path between the piano and orchestral versions, and allow for highlighting the colourfulness and intimacy of Mahler’s songs. They were made by the Czech composer and internationally renowned music arranger Tomáš Ille, who over the long term has closely collaborated with the conductor Manfred Honeck and whose works have been published by Bärenreiter, Schott Music, Universal Edition and others.
Peter Schöne, considered as an excellent singer with outstanding technique and a brilliant baritone, said: "Working with such passionate musicians is a great gift! During our recording, I was lucky enough to not only share this passion for 90 minutes like at a concert but for several days. I hope that the result on this album reflects this and allows our audience to experience it too! The most emotionally intense moment was recording the song 'Urlicht', in which Villem Veverka, together with the octet, created for me the infinite melody that we all wish for in our short, painful lives. Thank you for that!"
The bassoonist Václav Vonášek, a member of PhilHarmonia Octet Prague, said of the international project: “The new album is a natural result of our development. A decade since the formation of our ensemble, we have realised that the Classical and Romantic wind octet repertoire simply doesn’t suffice – with regard to diversity and our artistic ambitions. Consequently, we decided to seek arrangements, ideally created upon our own request. The first composition we chose to have arranged for our needs was Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, which, thanks to Tomáš Ille, turned out really well and gave rise to the bold idea of sinking our teeth into Mahler too.”
The oboist Monika Fürbach Boušková described how the ensemble established collaboration with the baritone Peter Schöne: “From the very beginning, we had quite a clear idea of the singer. We wanted to address an artist of our generation, ideally from Germany, bearing in mind the declamation of the texts. But it wasn’t as easy as it may seem, as not all singers, neither in the Czech Republic nor abroad, have songs in their repertoire. Peter Schöne was recommended to us by Tomáš Brauner, chief conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra. And it was an excellent choice – it turned out we were a perfect match – we and Peter understand each other both in artistic and personal terms, which we really appreciate!”