Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mahler 9: Another World

Sydney Symphony Orchestra presents MAHLER 9: ANOTHER WORLD in the Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House.

After a heavy diet of good but depressing nihilistic theatre experiences of late (MUCH ADO... at Bell Shakespeare being the exception) and to help me to gain courage to attend BAAL at the Sydney Theatre Company, I decided "If music be the food of love", what better way to drink in a whole fountain of love, then to go to hear the Sydney Symphony under the baton of Vladimir Ashkenazy to a Mahler drowning in sound/music/ love.

I love music but am simply an amateur, that is, just an apprenticed "lover' of it. The Mahler Symphony number 9 is the last completed symphony and it is steeped in an atmosphere of impending death. No escaping the darnkess it seems. A friend suggested if I wanted to give my self a good friendly gift/gesture then this concert was worth catching. He saw it on Wednesday which was the eighteenth of May. He told me that one hundred years ago, Gustav Mahler died on the eighteenth of May. He felt privileged to be hearing it on that night, the anniversary of Mahler's death. In fact, he wept at the start and at the end.

Indeed, I loved the first and fourth movements, particularly the long winding fourth that simply depletes itself over a long twenty five minutes into a gentle soft noise, that succumbs to an infinite silence, even in the Sydney Concert Hall on a near winter night - not a cough or sneeze in that bated breath final minutes, believe it or not. Great art masters all animal tempers it seems. I, too, had a weep at the profundity and co-incidence of Mahler's self prescience in the writing of this Symphony. Beethoven, Schubert, and Bruckner had all died after completing their ninth symphonies and according to the program notes, Mahler, a highly superstitious gentleman, while composing this score, in his hut at his summer residence in Toblach, had been visited in his room by an eagle and then a crow. He was afeard, indeed with the visits of these black harbingers of death. Enough not to call it a Symphony but rather DAS LIED VON DER ERDE and pointedly referred to it as a 'song-symphony'.

Mahler has been a puzzle for me, over a long time, to appreciate. When working in San Francisco, the chief conductor there, Michael Tilson-Thomas was a dedicated proselytiser of this great composer and conducted and recorded all the Symphonies. I managed to hear them all. I am still a "doubting Thomas" concerning the music of Mahler's Symphonies despite the dedication of both Mr Tilson-Thomas and Ashkenazy. Those two middle movements in the Ninth still throw me about too much to comprehend appreciatively and have an equilibrium about. Pleasure did not, does not, always register.

The first part of the concert was the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 13 in C,K415 led by Ashkenazy and played on the piano by Scottish, Steven Osborne. It was a light-weight delight. The summery youthful cheek of Mozart sparkled through. Mr Osborne has an elegant and refined touch. I watched his wrists, and fingers and marvelled at the grace and coaxing finger strokes on the piano keys. Tantalizing and seemingly effortless in the music making.

The combination of the two works complimented each other, in mood well.

Soon, I shall re-join the theatre merry-go-round that is not as merry as I would like. More music, first, perhaps.

N.B. Program notes were by Martin Buzacott,2002.

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