If There Is Much In The Window There Should Be More In The Room

Friday, September 2, 2016

LUCERNE FESTIVAL 2016 – OPENING CONCERT Riccardo Chailly conducts Mahler's Symphony No. 8


Riccardo Chailly conducts Mahler's Symphony No. 8 

In August, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra returns to its annual summer residency in Lucerne. The opening concerts, with the MCO as part of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, are conducted by the orchestra’s new Music Director Riccardo Chailly.

Succeeding Claudio Abbado as Music Director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Riccardo Chailly conducts the musicians for the very first time. To open this 2016 Lucerne Festival, he chooses to perform Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 in E-flat major, also called the Symphony of a Thousand, thus completing the Mahler cycle begun by Abbado.  Requiring one of the largest-scale choral works in the classical repertoire, the “orchestra of friends”, as Abbado used to call it, is joined by four large choruses and eight superb soloists, ensuring a spectacular performance, this opening concert to be a first-class event. Many of the soloists are known to the MCO: baritone Peter Mattei, for example, took part in the founding project of the MCO, Don Giovanni, under Claudio Abbado in Aix-en-Provence in 1998.

Even in Gustav Mahler’s time, the Eighth Symphony was called the “Symphony of a Thousand”. The title may seem sensational, but not inappropriate. For no less than eight vocal soloists, two large mixed choirs, a boys’ choir, a large symphony orchestra, a separate brass ensemble and an organ are required for the performance.But its monumental grandness is not only due to its instrumental and vocal forces, but equally because of its global textual basis. Written in 1906, Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand  was one of his rare works to be warmly received by the critics upon its premiere in September 1910. The two parts are respectively based on the Latin Pentecost hymn Veni creator spiritus ("Come, Holy Ghost, Creator") and the final scene of Goethe’s Faust II. The symphony breaks with Mahler’s purely orchestral writing. In his words (August 1906), “All my previous symphonies are merely the preludes to this one. In the other works everything still was subjective tragedy, but this one is a source of great joy." 

Starting with a medieval Pentecost hymn, and culminating in the closing scene of Goethe’s Faust, the symphony draws together fundamental philosophical ideas of Western history. The premiere in 1910, performed before the cultural elite of the time – the audience included Siegfried Wagner, Richard Strauss, Arnold Schoenberg, Bruno Walter, Stefan Zweig and Thomas Mann – was the most triumphant success in the life of Gustav Mahler. And the composer himself felt the symphony to be “the grandest thing I have done yet”, as he wrote to the conductor Willem Mengelberg.

Gustav Mahler (1860–1911)
Symphony No. 8 in E-flat major Symphony of a Thousand 

“The Eternal-Feminine / Leads us onward”: These words from the final scene of Goethe’s Faust II bring Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony to its conclusion – and perfectly encapsulate the 2016 Summer Festival theme. The “Eternal-Feminine” was, for Mahler, “the point of repose, the goal,” in contrast to the “Eternal-Masculine,” his term for the principle of longing and striving. He was moreover inspired by thoughts of his wife Alma, whom he described as his “harbor” and to whom he dedicated the score. Mahler does not limit himself to setting Goethe but links the work to sacred music as well, opening with the Pentecostal hymn Veni Creator Spiritus, an invocation to the Holy Spirit. That’s why he once responded to the question why he had never written church music by declaring that in fact the Eighth Symphony was his Mass …

Mahler's Eighth celebrates a powerful life force, the spirit of creativity itself, pulling together images from diverse sources. Thus it epitomizes the ideals that led Claudio Abbado to found the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, where the finest musicians from the best orchestras in Europe join together in communal harmony. Claudio  Abbado and Riccardo Chailly were very close, and now Chailly carries on Abbado's ideals. Wherever Abbado might be now, his spirit hovered over this performance. This was an extraordinarily thoughtful performance culminating in ecstatic serenity, accessing "the peace that passeth all understanding", absolutely relevant to what the symphony might mean.You may watch here on arte.tv

Although Mahler's Eighth is known as "the Symphony of a Thousand" the title wasn't Mahler's but a marketing slogan invented by a concert promoter. But quantity is not quality. At Lucerne, the orchestra and soloists were supplemented by 222 choristers , arranged in six rows across the width of the hall, the Tölzer Knabenchor along the sides. Voices and orchestra were well balanced, allowing much greater freedom of expression. The boys choir can often get lost in an uproar, but here their relatively small but important role came through clearly. This matters. "So far I have employed words and the human voice to express only with immense breadth", Mahler wrote specifically of this  symphony, "But here the voice is also an instrument used not only as sound but as the bearer of poetic thoughts".  Poetic thoughts, some so delicate that they can be overwhelmed in interpretations that stress volume over  artistry. No chance of that here. In Chailly's Mahler 8, every voice has its place in the grand scheme of things, a concept absolutely in tune with the concepts behind the symphony…. Read more here

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 8 E-flat major “Symphony of a Thousand”
Riccardo Chailly   Conductor
Ricarda Merbeth  Soprano Magna Peccatrix
Juliane Banse   Una poenitentium
Christine Goerke Soprano 

Anna Lucia Richter Soprano  Mater gloriosa
Sara Mingardo  Alto Mulier Samaritana
Mihoko Fujimura Alto   Maria Aegyptiaca
Andreas Schager  Tenor Doctor Marianus
Peter Mattei  Baritone Pater ecstaticus
Samuel Youn  Bass  Pater profundus
Choirs Bavarian Radio Choir, Latvian Radio Choir, Orfeón Donostiarra & Tölz Boys' Chor

See full performance @


No comments:

Post a Comment