Photo of Gustavo Dudamel and Martin Chalifour courtesy of the LA Times
Well, here we are.
We've entered a sort of "endgame" for The Mahler Project here in LA. The Project will roll on for two more weeks in Venezuela after the final, haunting notes of Mahler 9 fade into the warm afternoon air on FEB 5 - but after next Sunday, the grand effort we know as The Mahler Project is over in the United States.
That is, until FEB 18, when people around the country will be able to walk, drive, bike or skip to their local movie theaters, order a large popcorn and sit back to enjoy the "Symphony of a Thousand" live from Caracas, Venezuela as party of LA Phil LIVE.
That said, there's still plenty of Mahler to be had this week. Here's what's happening, Mahler-wise:
Editor's note: This post was written by Daniel Berkowitz, the LA Phil's YOLA Manager.
During a break in the action last week, nearly 30 musicians from the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela visited our two YOLA sites: YOLA at HOLA, our partnership with Heart of Los Angeles, and YOLA at EXPO, our partnership with Harmony Project and EXPO Center. EXPO, HOLA and SBSOV are preparing for a side-by-side concert on JAN 30 - it's right around the corner!
Contrary to popular belief, the music of Mahler isn't all sunshine and light...
What makes the symphony-ending hammer blows in Mahler 6 happen here at the LA Phil
We're being facetious, of course, as Mahler's symphonies are famously dense and more than a little somber throughout - LA Phil Music Director Gustavo Dudamel noted in his post-concert talk after a performance of Mahler 1 that "no one loved to suffer more than Mahler." And, if there's a symphony that proves this fact, it's Mahler 6. After all, a symphony doesn't get to be known popularly as "The Tragic (der Tragische) without earning a reputation for being on the dark side - it ends with three crushing hammer blows - but, true to form, Mahler composed the work at a relatively happy time in his life.
Here are a couple of facts about Mahler 6 that you might not know:
It's easy to assume that what you see is what you get - for example, even though we may know objectively that The Mahler Project is an enormous undertaking with many moving parts, that fact can sometimes be obscured or forgotten when we see the final product. Orchestra rehearses, orchestra plays - right?
Well...no. Take the upcoming Mahler 8, for example. We know it's referred to as Mahler's "Symphony of a Thousand," and we know that Gustavo Dudamel is leading the LA Phil, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and around 800 other musicians in the performance on FEB 4 at LA's Shrine Auditorium and on FEB 18 at the Teatro Teresa Carreño in Caracas - we know all that, but here's a question - where and how does such a massive ensemble rehearse?
If you thought last week at Walt Disney Concert Hall had a whole lot of Mahler, then get ready - this week will really knock you out. Gustavo and the LA Phil have progressed at a brisk but reasonable pace since launching The Mahler Project on JAN 13, but now that the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela has arrived and played not only THEIR first Mahler symphony with Gustavo but also the first of two performances of "Mahler's World" -- well, the only word we can think of to describe this week is "breakneck."
Here's what's happening in The Mahler Project this week:
Growing up in central Oklahoma, there was a weather pattern we were used to in the same way residents of Southern California are used to the Santa Ana winds: springtime thunderstorms. As I understand it, they are the result of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico colliding with cold, dry air from up in Canada and the northern plains. If conditions were just right and you were in just the right place, you could experience the sudden change from warm to cold and feel Mother Nature at work.
I always enjoyed this rare treat, as the atmosphere was inevitably very calm and still, but in the distance you could see the clouds heading your way. As they grew closer, the energy of the storm began to fill the air with tension and excitement and there was a sense of nature charging itself up. Once the storm arrived, the cleansing rush of water was only interrupted by the thrilling flashes of lightning and percussive claps of thunder. Seen from a certain perspective, these storms were an exciting and beautiful display of nature.
Thursday's performance of Mahler 1 was spellbinding - especially with the powerful way it ended with the Adagio of the 10th symphony - musically "bookending" Mahler's extraordinary but brief life. The viola section was especially poignant with its utterances, I felt.