In celebration of its 10th anniversary, Ensemble Mini – the radical collective of 16 soloists from German symphony orchestras – releases its follow-up Mahler recording (to its critically-acclaimed 9th Symphony debut album) with the fascinating re-construction for ensemble by Michelle Castelletti of Mahler’s 10th Symphony. Upon his death in 1911, Mahler’s “unfinished” was left only in a draft of sketches and reduced voices. It is this “miniscore” that gives Michelle Castelletti’s work a certain authenticity, which isn’t just a regular transcription but a genuine and meaningful attempt to get to the heart of Mahler’s score. Its revolutionary wealth of colours and sentiments are left powerfully exposed. Indeed, this symphony is the unequivocal inspiration and precursor to the 2nd Viennese School, the post-tonal period immediately following Mahler’s death, which led to Schoenberg’s Society for Private Musical Performances (Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen), the idea upon which both Ensemble Mini concept and Castelletti’s work is based.
More importantly, in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Ensemble Mini’s unique interpretation of Mahler’s 10th is a powerful statement of humanity and hope. Billions of people around the world find themselves left alone in painful isolation and struggle. If there is ever a piece of music for this moment in history, it is Mahler’s 10th Symphony. As well as convincingly portraying society’s loneliness, it proposes that out of a crisis comes acceptance and contentment. As Joolz Gale writes in the CD’s extensive booklet notes, “for all of its trials and tribulations, isolation can be consolation”. But, more powerful than that, Ensemble Mini’s remarkable courage to tackle one of the most challenging symphonies ever written with such impressive virtuosity symbolises the great strength that can be drawn when left with so little. Castelletti’s version for ensemble is scored for single strings, single winds, piano, percussion and harmonium (played by accordion in this recording), allowing Ensemble Mini’s 16 soloists to provide both an intimate and inspiring new perspective on Mahler’s symphonic aura. This is complemented by the high-resolution Super-Audio CD sound from the ARS-Produktion label, although the recording is also available on CD and all major online platforms from March 2021 as well as double LP from May 2021.