LA Phil Blog

Festival Notes

My Introduction to Mahler

LewisIn the summer of 1966 or 67 I was playing in the Idyllwild (CA) Festival Orchestra as concertmaster. I had been in student orchestras at the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts, or ISOMATA - now called Idyllwild Arts - every summer but one since 1959. This, however, was the first time playing with conductor Daniel Lewis, then on the faculty of Cal State Fullerton, now retired from many years conducting and teaching at U.S.C.

Working with Lewis was wonderful - his conducting and musicianship were so much better than most conductors I had played with before and after that time - but what sticks in my mind and heart the most was my introduction to the musical world of Gustav Mahler.

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Mahler’s Number One – And Some Unfinished Business


The Hungarian Press wasn't too impressed with Mahler 1 when it premiered

Weekend #2 of The Mahler Project begins tonight, but the program will always be #1 in our hearts - because, after all, it's Mahler 1, the first complete symphony the celebrated composer wrote.

Being paired with Mahler 1 this weekend (except for Friday's performance) is the only existing portion of the unfinished Mahler 10, the Adagio. Combined, the two pieces present a vision of Mahler that is diametrically opposed - the young, nature-loving Mahler of the 1880s and the Mahler of 1910-11, dying of a heart ailment (and possibly a broken heart).

Here's what you might not know about these two bookends to Mahler's career:

Symphony No. 1:

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This Week in Mahler

Gustavo in rehearsal

With the first weekend of The Mahler Project successfully under our belts and behind us, you probably think we're ready for a well-deserved break, right?

Not on your life.

As followers of the festival know, The Mahler Project is just getting started. In fact, after an amazing opening weekend featuring Mahler 4, "Songs of a Wayfarer" and a stirring Thomas Hampson rendition of Mahler's Rheinlegendchen for an encore on Sunday night, this week is even more jam-packed with Mahler-related goodness.

Here's what's happening this week:

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Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

On your marks...get set...and GO!

That's right - after many months of anticipation (and many, many more of preparation), The Mahler Project officially begins tonight as Gustavo Dudamel leads the LA Phil and guest artists Thomas Hampson and Miah Persson in Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer and Symphony No. 1.

Gustav MahlerHere are a few Festival-friendly, wet-your-whistle type facts you might not know about each of these pieces:

Songs of a Wayfarer:

1) Songs of a Wayfarer (1883-1885) is not only considered Mahler's first "mature" work, but also the first of an entirely new genre of orchestral music - the "orchestral song cycle."

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Let The Mahler Project Begin!

A few words that keep getting thrown around when discussing The Mahler Project: ambitious, monumental, massive.

But why? After all, orchestras have certainly presented Mahler cycles before – playing each of the composer’s nine symphonies in a short period. However, we think The Mahler Project is quite special. Let’s look at the numbers.

Nine symphonies. Two continents. Two orchestras. And one conductor.

That’s not even taking into account the (literally) 1,000 musicians that will crowd onto the stage of the Shrine Auditorium here in LA (and the Teatro Teresa Carreño in Caracas) to perform Mahler 8, the so-called “Symphony of a Thousand.” A thousand is a big number for one stage. And this doesn’t even begin to factor in the logistics of moving Gustavo Dudamel, the LA Phil and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela 3,600 miles to Caracas, Venezuela to do it all over again.

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