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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.
Here 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."
2) Mahler wrote the "story" of the 4-song cycle himself: in the first song, the "hero" witnesses the wedding of his beloved to another and the joy that typically surrounds a wedding is juxtaposed with his (understandable) sadness; in the second song, the hero appears in a better mood as he wanders out into the world and is greeted by a happily singing bird, but this optimism fades by the end of the song; in the third song, the full force of the orchestra mirrors the hero's explosion of emotional turmoil; and the fourth song functions as a funeral march to signal the end of the love affair and the hero's figurative "demise."
Symphony No. 4:
1) Clocking in at a relatively brief 55 minutes, Mahler 4 is the composer's shortest symphony and is doubtless his most lighthearted work - the opening is marked by the cheerful tinkling of sleigh bells, meant to evoke the lighthearted gaiety of youth.
2) Lighthearted being a relative term for Mahler, the second and third movements veer from eerie to solemn before the fourth, called "Das himmlische Leben," presents a child's view of Heaven.
You can read more about the program and hear samples of both pieces here.
Once you've boned up on this weekend's offerings, get ready for 3 more weeks of Mahler - the LA leg of The Mahler Project is just getting started!