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Salzburg’s Mahler cycle is a coat of many colours, some clashing

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.

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  1. “Both programmes struggle so hard to make a point that they may tip over the edge of good taste.” And since when has Mahler had anything at all to do with good taste? We’re talking about a man who expressed genuine delight when his 4th Symphony was programmed twice in the same concert!

    I’d be keen to see a programme that matched Mahler symphonies with classic film scores – that could say something genuinely illuminating about his long-range cultural influence. Only budgetary constraints prevented me from pairing Mahler’s 5th with a suite from Herrmann’s “Vertigo” recently!

  2. Salzburg-Mahler, what label is that ? thank you in advance. Have not seen that cover before and it arouses my manic obsession for BW performances regardless of technical considerations.

  3. Stephen H. Owades says:

    Your list shows the 9th twice (Dudamel and Chailly) and omits the 8th. The program booklet you linked to shows that the 9th will be done only by Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra; the cycle begins with the 8th by Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Orchestra.

  4. I agree with you about the lack of the 10th Symphony in the programme.

    About 20 years ago I met an eminent conductor after a concert of Mahler. I mentioned that I had heard all 11 symphonies & had all the scores. He queried the 11 & I said the 9, plus Das Lied & the completed 10th.

    He said he doesn’t include the 10th because Mahler didn’t complete it. I asked him if he conducted Mozart Requiem. He said why? I said because there is more Mahler in Mahler 10 than there is Mozart in Mozart’s requiem.

    There was a long silence & he said. He had better rethink his arguements!!!

  5. Programming Manler and Bertwistle together is not just tipping over the edge of good taste but falling off the cliff.

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