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July 14th 2008
Published: July 14th 2008EDIT THIS ENTRY

MAHLER Symphony No. 1

If you know me, there’s a fairly good chance you’ve been forced to listen to my ramblings of classical music. I know I usually get carried away (especially with Mahler) but I really can’t help it. For those who haven’t a clue of what I’m speaking, Gustav Mahler tops my list of favorite composers for several hundred more reasons than I should chose to list here (because if you haven’t been exposed to Mahler you may not have a care). I’ll give a brief background on the composer.

Gustav Mahler was born in 1860 and died in 1911. His short life was filled with tragedy, including the deaths of siblings, his young daughter, an affair of his wife Alma, and his own struggle to survive the last few years of his life. Mahler had a fascination with death, not necessarily an obsession with darkness or an evil idea of death, but rather he pondered the subject and human existence in general above all else. He was best known during his life as a conductor. In fact he is regarded as one of the greatest conductors and orchestrators of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Most of Mahler’s conducting career was spent as director of the Vienna Philharmonic, a position that brought him considerable attention throughout Europe and the world (leading to a brief time conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra). As a composer he was genius of Late Romanticism and a symphonic master, viewing the symphony as the ultimate expression of music and the world. In addition to his nine mammoth symphonies (the tenth is incomplete), Mahler’s song cycles and some of his early works have been growing in popularity over the past half-century, thanks to conductors like Sir Georg Solti (Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and Leonard Bernstein (New York Philharmonic).

A Haydn piece, Synfonia Concertante in B flat, was performed first, and of course it was most delightful, but since I completely forgot that something was likely to precede Mahler, I was more the itching to get on with the Symphony as soon as possible. Though the first is seldom regarded as his best symphony, pushed behind 5, 2, and 9, Mahler 1 produces some of the most terrifying and beautiful sounds in all of music. I had been dying to hear it in full for over a year, and the Sydney Symphony delivered. I don’t know what the top critics thought of the performance, and I honestly don’t care. Sitting behind the orchestra in the blast range of SEVEN French horns couldn’t have been more pleasant! Everyone in the group enjoyed the music, but I think we all walked away with a great appreciation of Maestro Gianluigi Gelmetti, whose jolliness left a few unable to suppress random giggles. I cannot wait to finally get my hands on a recording of Mahler 1and have a second listen, but for now I’ll have to settle for my existing Mahler library and the overload of training and school! Fortunately we may have Sibelius’ 2nd Symphony to look forward to in a couple weeks. I’m ready for a return trip to the opera house any day!

More on the rest of the July4-6 weekend to come

Aaron


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