March 14th Mahler Performance Review

Mahler 2nd Symphony Performance Review!

Gustav Mahler rarely did anything on a small scale; rather he preferred the grandiose! He married the most famous and most beautiful woman in Vienna; when he conducted the premier of his Symphony #8 in Munich, he had more than 1000 musicians participating…

On Sunday, March 14, 2010, I attended the San Francisco Symphony’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony #2. And before a single note was sounded, the grandiose aspects of the performance that did not yet start was evident: Every chair in the orchestra’s stage space was occupied: Two sets of Tympani; two harps; 2 oboes, 2 English horns 4 flutes, tuba, Piccolos… I could not count the number of Bass players…. And Mahler gave the Organ a part, as well. And… there were about 135 people in the chorus!

Mahler composed Humanity into his symphonies; and humanity is BIG….

For an interesting time-line, click here:

The Symphony #2 began as the so-called Todtenfeier (Celebration of death, or Funeral rites). Later Mahler added 4 additional movements:

• In the second movement, we hear Mahler as the painter of Nature, a wonderfully pastoral painting
• The 3rd movement is a Scherzo: Somewhat sinister, biting and sardonic
• Movement 4 is called “Urlicht” (German for Primal Light); this is with text from poems in “Des Kanben’s Wunderhorn”, sung by the Mezzo-Soprano soloist
• The final movement is the Resurrection, the rebirth of the individual’s soul in which the large chorus and the two soloists participate.

What a performance this was by members of the San Francisco Symphony, as directed by Michael Tilson Thomas: Tender in sections; grandiose in others. With a huge diverse set of emotions, that were fully inspirational. This was outstanding playing by many different sections of the orchestra: The strings were lush yet precise. The trumpets were amazing, as were the horns. The two Tympani players had a “field day”: their chance to go for broke, and pull out all the stops.

Here is a section of the second movement of this Symphony, as performed by the San Francisco Symphony. Enjoy!

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