It was brave of Alexander Pereira to put on a cycle of Mahler symphonies next summer, two years after the rest of the world had packed away their Mahler centennial ballgowns. Brave – and apposite, since Mahler had a brief connection with Salzburg in the Mozart year of 1906 and that link is worth commemorating in some meaningful way. Bernard Haitink will complain, but you can’t please all of the maestros all of the time.
Three of the symphonies – 3, 7, 8 – will be conducted by Gustavo Dudamel with the Simon Bolivar orchestra, adding fresh zest to the formula.The youth orchestra of Venezuela will be conducted by Simon Rattle in the first symphony, preceded by a Ginastera piece and Gershwin’s Cuban overture. Almost equally eye-catching – and ear-twisting – is the conjunction of Mahlers fourth symphony with Harrison Birtwistle’s recent violin concerto (conductor, Cornelius Meister). Both programmes struggle so hard to make a point that they may tip over the edge of good taste.
The remaining symphonies are conducted by Mariss Jansons (2), Zubin Mehta (5), Michael Gielen (6) and Riccardo Chailly (9).
The series is titled ‘Gustav Mahler – the nine symphonies’, as if the tenth did not exist. Surely Rattle and Chailly – perhaps even the entire Vienna Philharmonic – must have objected. To do a cycle without the 10th is archaic and incomplete.