About this Performance
Mahler’s Sixth Symphony features both contrast and controversy. While it’s his darkest, he composed it at high point in his life. Conductors often quarrel over the correct order of the movements. Musicologists argue whether Mahler was writing about the tragedy that he somehow knew would befall him and his wife in coming years, or was he just writing a symphony? What is beyond debate, however, is this symphony thrusts the audience into the composer’s inner world, and Mahler specialist Gustavo Dudamel has been celebrated for expertly shaping the soaring emotional peaks and valleys that run throughout the Sixth.
The range of this symphony is captured by two unusual percussion instruments. First there are cowbells, which Mahler uses to paint an idyllic, nostalgic picture of country life. Then there are the famous hammer blows, a sound you won’t hear anywhere else. Basically, a huge wooden box is struck with a heavy mallet, representing a fate-like force crushing any positive notion trying to emerge. Mahler eventually cut the number of these gigantic, gut-shaking thumps to two, but some conductors still include a third. Until the conclusion of the long emotional nightmare that is the final movement, the outcome is in doubt; will light and good ultimately prevail? There’s a reason why this work is nicknamed “Tragic.” But to share in this very human journey is ultimately life-affirming.See other concerts in this series
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