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Composer: Mahler, Gustav (1860-1911)

Find classical music concert, opera, ballet and dance listings | Mahler
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BelfastRustioni Conducts Mahler's Resurrection

Rustioni Conducts Mahler's Resurrection
Mahler: Symphony no. 2 in C minor 'Resurrection'
Ulster Orchestra; Daniele Rustioni; Ruby Hughes; Kai Rüütel; Belfast Philharmonic Choir

ChicagoMälkki conducts Beethoven & Mahler 4

Beethoven, Mahler
Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Susanna Mälkki; Camilla Tilling

San SebastiánTrascendencia

Trascendencia
Mahler: Symphony no. 2 in C minor 'Resurrection'
Orquesta Sinfónica de Euskadi; Robert Trevino; Kate Royal; Justina Gringytė; Orfeón Donostiarra

MontrealClosing Concert: Kent Nagano conducts Mahler's Resurrection Symphony

Mahler: Symphony no. 2 in C minor 'Resurrection'
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal; Andrew Megill; Camilla Tilling; Mihoko Fujimura; OSM Chorus; Kent Nagano

PamplonaTrascendencia

Trascendencia
Mahler: Symphony no. 2 in C minor 'Resurrection'
Orquesta Sinfónica de Euskadi; Robert Trevino; Kate Royal; Justina Gringytė; Orfeón Donostiarra
Latest reviewsSee more...

In Atlanta, a special evening with Pinchas Zukerman and Yoel Levi

Pinchas Zukerman © Cheryl Mazak
Yoel Levi and Pinchas Zukerman perform Bruch's gorgeous Violin Concerto with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
*****
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Søndergård and the RSNO in dramatic Strauss and life-affirming Mahler

Thomas Søndergård © Andy Buchanan

Thomas Søndergård and the RSNO on top form in Strauss’ dramatic Also Sprach Zarathustra, and Mahler’s life affirming Das Lied von der Erde.

****1
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Iván Fischer focuses on the big picture in Mahler 5 at Lincoln Center

Iván Fischer © Akos Stiller
The players of the Budapest Festival Orchestra once again proved themselves to be a remarkably cohesive ensemble.
****1
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Rollicking Mahler Fifth may have just put NSO on the global map

Gianandrea Noseda © Steve Sherman
Clarion details from start to finish result in a spectacular Mahler Fifth from Noseda and the National Symphony Orchestra
*****
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Mahler's Resurrection painted by Hrůša and the Philharmonia

© Alison Karlin | Bachtrack Ltd
Mahler's Second Symphony receives an unforgettably committed and detail-rich performance at the Royal Festival Hall.
*****
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Biography

The most striking thing about Mahler’s music is its sheer scale and ambition - and “strike” is the right word: Mahler’s music seldom shrinks from doing whatever it takes to make maximum impact. It’s evident from every stage in his compositional career: from his first major composition, das Klagende Lied, a cantata for full choir and two orchestras written when he was just twenty years old, to the third symphony with its forty minute first movement, which aspires to be a musical description of the whole of creation, to the eighth symphony, dubbed “Symphony of a Thousand” (much to Mahler’s chagrin) after Leopold Stokovsky conducted 1,068 performers at its première. And who else would attempt to cover the entire earth in a symphonic cantata for soprano, baritone and a giant orchestra, entitling it Das Lied von der Erde (the Song of the Earth)?

Mahler’s music polarises. If it connects with you, it does so with enormous power and intensity. The third symphony can indeed make you feel like you just took in all life and creation at a hundred-minute sitting. The fifth symphony opens with a funeral fanfare that leaves you shaking after just the first few bars, while the second movement’s helter skelter theme leaves you breathless and reeling. Mahler fans are amongst the most devoted set in the whole of classical music, with active societies around the world and thousands of pages dissecting his works in the minutest detail.

Mahler could also write with intimacy and contemplation. That same fifth symphony which opens so clangorously contains the adagietto for harp and strings, made famous by Luchino Visconti’s film Death in Venice, whose achingly long suspended chords quietly lead the listener through tragedy and meditation. The same intimacy can be heard in Kindertotenlieder, a song cycle that is vivid and quiet in its portrayal of a parent’s grief at the loss of a child: an eerie foretelling of the composer’s own grief when his daughter died of scarlet fever four years later.

Not everyone feels this way. Many viewed Mahler as “an excellent conductor who wrote excessively long symphonies”, and the Sunday Times of 1960 described the first movement of the third symphony as “an artistic monstrosity”. Mahler is often mercurial, mixing high drama and seriousness with a fondness for Austrian folk song and even the klezmer music of his Jewish youth: some listeners simply can’t cope with this. Even for the committed, appreciating his music demands patience, concentration and, preferably, repeated listenings. This is perhaps why he achieved far greater recognition after the widespread adoption of the long-playing record in the 1950s.

Whatever the views of him as a composer, Mahler was more or less universally acknowledged as a great conductor. He had a glittering career including positions at Vienna, Prague, Leipzig, Hamburg and Budapest, culminating in ten years as director of the Vienna State Opera. In the last years of his life, he received equal acclaim in the United States, where he conducted both the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic, earning what was at the time the highest ever fee paid to a musician.

Perhaps for this reason, he has inspired many great conductors, starting with his contemporary and friend Bruno Walter and continuing through Jascha Horenstein and Herbert von Karajan to Claudio Abbado and Simon Rattle today.

Musically, Mahler forms a bridge from the romantic to the modern eras. He appeals to those who find the romantic form too rigid and stifling, but have difficulty in accepting the harsh atonality of much twentieth century music. His music liberally mixes orchestral and vocal forms and abandons much formal structure in its search for impact and expressivity, yet retains a base in conventional tonality that makes it easy on the ear for those raised in the romantic tradition. Love it or loathe it, a Mahler concert is a memorable experience.

David Karlin
21st December 2009