DW Festival Concert: Mahler at Beethovenfest 2021 | Music | DW

In this episode of DW Festival Concert we will hear an exquisite interpretation of this monumental work from the closing concert of Beethovenfest 2021 in Bonn.

The Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Prague Philharmonic Choir bring out the boundary-pushing tonal panorama and inspiring creativity of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, a work that impresses and elevates.

It is known as the “Resurrection” symphony and the Beethovenfest Bonn used the words of the choir from the last movement of the symphony for the motto of the 2021 festival.
The young and dynamic French conductor Maxime Pascal conducted the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in Bonn last year.

find a balance

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) began writing the first movement of the symphony in 1888. It was a time of rapid industrialization and many people tried to find a balance by turning to nature, religion and culture. spirituality.

Mahler too. His compositions, which repeatedly test the limits of tonality, place him right in the middle of old and new musical modes, on the threshold of the avant-garde. Among his friends were avant-garde composers like Arnold Schoenberg, Alexander Zemlinsky and Alban Berg.

He presented the first movement of the piece to publishers in 1891, intending it to be a self-contained symphonic poem titled “Funeral Rite”. When he performed a piano version by the eminent conductor Hans von Bülow, the latter supposedly covered his ears with his hands and remarked: “If this is music, then I don’t understand music. all the music! Not exactly praise.

Fortunately, the public reacted in quite the opposite way when the work premiered a few years later.

Gustav Mahler

Unit Symbol

Mahler’s legacy inspired famed Mahler conductor and performer Claudio Abbado to found the “Mahler Youth Orchestra” in Vienna in 1986. The group was conceived as a symbol of unity between East and Western Europe, because Mahler himself was born in the bohemian town of Kaliste. , then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and now part of the Czech Republic.

In 1997, several members of the youth orchestra decided to create a permanent ensemble. They called it “The Mahler Chamber Orchestra” – and we hear it on this program. The ensemble is made up of forty-five musicians. British trumpeter Matthew Sadler is one of them. He’s been a member for 10 years, so he’s no stranger to Mahler’s Second Symphony.

According to Sadler, Mahler was someone who represented both Eastern and Western Europe and combined the two. “What was special about the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra compared to other similar institutions was that it was trying to bring together people from behind the Iron Curtain, in the days of Czechoslovakia, from Romania, from Bulgaria, sometimes from Russia too, with people from Western Europe.”

preach to fish

Mahler began work on the second and third movements of his symphony in 1893, about five years after completing the first movement. At the time he was also working on various songs from his song cycle “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” or “The Boy’s Magic Horn”, and he incorporated some of the melodies from the songs into the symphony. An example is the “sermon fish” melody in the third movement.

The song Magic Horn comes from a satirical version of Saint Anthony of Padua, who preached to the fishes after people stopped going to church. In the song, the fish listens to his sermon with enthusiasm, then turns away – just as humans did.

Lieder, or concert melodies, occupy an important place in Mahler’s creative work. In his second symphony, he incorporated various songs from his song cycle “The Boy’s Magic Horn”. In this episode, we’ll hear the song “fish sermon” in purely instrumental form in the third movement, and we’ll hear “Urlicht”, or “Primordial Light”, in the fourth movement. In this case, however, it is sung by an alto soloist which describes man’s search for the light of God.

The last movement

It was in the winter of 1894, at the funeral of conductor Hans von Bülow – who had once rejected the first movement of Mahler’s Second Symphony – that Mahler found his inspiration for the symphony’s last movement. There he heard a choir singing the Klopstock chorale, “Aufersteh’n, ja Aufersteh’n”, or “Rise again, yes, rise again”. This
electrified him.

Mahler wrote: “Then the choir in the organ loft began to sing the Klopstock chorale ‘Rise again.’ is the love at first sight that the artist expects, it is ‘the sacred conception!'”

The Prague Philharmonic Choir will be heard in this performance from September 10, 2021, during the closing concert of Beethovenfest in Bonn.

The choir was founded in 1935 as a radio choir and today, under the direction of conductor Lukas Vasilek, it performs with various orchestras around the world. At Beethovenfest, he joined the Mahler Chamber Orchestra to perform Mahler’s Second Symphony.

Even though the instrumentalists get a lot more performance time, it’s the choir that’s the crowning glory, says Vasilek. “When the choir starts singing, it’s kind of a surprise for the audience. And it’s a mystical or mysterious moment for everyone, something like a miracle.”

During his lifetime, Gustav Mahler was better known as a conductor and opera reformer than as a composer. In 1908, three years before his death, he moved to the United States and signed a contract with the Metropolitan Opera. A year later, he became conductor of the New York Philharmonic.

Today he is one of the most esteemed classical composers in the world. In 2016, Sotheby’s auctioned the original score of his second symphony. It sold for $5.6 million, making it the most expensive musical manuscript of all time.

That’s all in this episode of DW Festival Concert. If you have any comments, email us at music@dw.com.

Cristina Burack

Cristina Burack, host of the DW Festival concerts

Performances presented in this concert:

1. Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 2 in C minor, “Resurrection”, Movement I: Allegro

maestoso. Mit durchaus ernstem und feierlichem Ausdruck (with a

serious and solemn expression)

Performed by: WDR Symphony Orchestra

Direction: Maxime Pascal

Recorded by Deutsche Welle (DW) at WCCB, Bonn on September 10, 2021

2. Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 2 in C minor, “Resurrection”, Movement II: Andante

moderato. Sehr gemächlich. Nie eilen (very quiet. Never in a hurry)

Movement III: In ruhig fließender Bewegung (flowing and calm movement)

Performed by: WDR Symphony Orchestra

Direction: Maxime Pascal

Recorded by Deutsche Welle (DW) at WCCB, Bonn on September 10, 2021

3. Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 2 in C minor, “Resurrection”, Movement IV:

“Urlicht” – Sehr feierlich aber schlicht. Nicht schleppen (“Primordial Light” – very

solemnly but simply. Not lagging)

Movement V: “Aufersteh’n” – Im Tempo des Scherzos. Herausfahrend wild – Wieder

zurückhaltend – Langsam. Misterioso (“Rise again” – in the tempo of a scherzo.

Initially wild – backing off again – slowly. Mysteriously)

Performed by: WDR Symphony Orchestra

Prague Philharmonic Choir

Camilla Tilling, soprano

Alisa Kolosova, mezzo-soprano

Maxime Pascal, conductor

Recorded by Deutsche Welle (DW) at WCCB, Bonn on September 10, 2021

4. Gustav Mahler, Songs from the songbooks “Lieder und Gesänge” (“Songs

and Airs”) and “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” (The Boy’s Magic Horn”)

“Ablösung im Sommer” (“The Changing of the Guard in Summer”)

“Starke Einbildungskraft” (“Strong Imagination”)

“Selbstgefühl” (“Sense of self”)

“Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht?” (“Who came up with that little song?”)

Performed by: WDR Symphony Orchestra

Christina Landshamer, soprano

Wiebke Lehmkuhl, contralto

Directed by: Cristian Macelaru

Recorded by West German Broadcasting (WDR) at the Cologne Philharmonie on January 19, 2021

Produced at Deutsche Welle with sound engineer Thomas Schmidt, Russian producer and host Anastassia Boutsko and host Cristina Burack. Text and production by Gaby Reucher.

Edited by: Manasi Gopalakrishnan

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