This time last year Fabio Luisi was bidding farewell to the Wiener Symphoniker at an Abschiedssoirée where he acknowledged the orchestra’s need for new leadership. Now he’s back, launching an in-house label with a studio recording of Mahler 1 (just released on CD and LP) and a live Mitschnitt of 6 presumably taken from these concerts (out next February). Also appearing will be archive recordings, beginning with a Celibidache Brahms 1 which should make for an interesting Munich comparison. My one tip, which is not to say it will happen, would be the Symphoniker’s Mozart back catalogue from the 1950s and early 60s, given a refinement under Krips, Böhm and Karajan distinct from – some would say superior to – the Staatsoper’s more famous so-called Wiener Mozart-Stil from the same period.
The orchestra plans to issue two to four releases a year, though there is no word yet as to what direction the label will take once Chefdirigent-designate Philippe Jordan is in charge; perhaps shrewdly, he will announce his own plans only when Luisi is out of the picture. The one open secret about the planning, and apparent enough from the Fabio-centric strategy and corner-cutting elsewhere – no frills branding, cover design lifted from the orchestra’s website etc. – was the banking on the cachet of a further Met promotion to shift these Mahler discs (according to that proven speculative marketing model, i migliori piani posati di topi e maestri). This situation is not without irony: the Symphoniker is releasing these two symphonies on the back of a Mahler cycle last season which Luisi was far more enthusiastic about than both Thomas Angyan and much of the orchestra, and his short-notice cancellation of three of the most challenging works (2, 3 and 7, with 3 and 7 turning out disastrously) to step in at the Met created much tension at the time.