Classics in Concert
Sat February 25, 2012
Live Saturday: The Berlin Philharmonic At Carnegie Hall
Originally published on Fri May 25, 2012 1:01 pm
Several years after he wrote his massive and existentially searching Second Symphony, Gustav Mahler withdrew the three separate sets of notes he had issued about it, on the grounds that the music should be able to stand on its own, its meaning instantly clear. And the poetry Mahler assigned to the chorus and vocal soloists in this sprawling work is incisive and illuminating. As Mahler wrote in his text for the concluding movement, "Sterben werd' ich, um zu leben!" (I will die, that I might live!).
The Symphony No. 2, later dubbed the "Resurrection" Symphony, is a work for which the Berlin Philharmonic has a particular and special affinity. Mahler himself led the ensemble's first performance of it in 1895. Moreover, it was a performance of this very piece that the the Berlin Philharmonic's chief conductor, Simon Rattle, attended at age 12 that provided the propulsive force for his entire career; after attending that concert, Rattle decided he wanted to be a conductor when he grew up.
While the Mahler Second is a piece that comprises a fundamental part of the orchestra's DNA, the orchestra playing this performance at Carnegie Hall represents a new generation of Berlin-based Mahlerians. As of last year, the average age of the Berlin Philharmonic musicians is now 38, and nearly half of its players are not German.
Rattle juxtaposes this central work in the Berlin Philharmonic's repertoire with three pieces for chorus and orchestra by Mahler's exact contemporary and one-time close friend, Hugo Wolf. Unfortunately, as Wolf's mental health declined over time, their relationship corroded.
Born in 1860, Wolf became a master of writing intimate lieder, but in this program we hear three choral works in which he explored painting on a much larger canvas. Wolf desperately wanted to become known as an operatic composer; the aria "Frühlingschor" is from Manuel Venegas, the opera Wolf was working on before his life unspooled completely. The Westminster Symphonic Choir will also perform expanded versions of Wolf's songs "Elfenlied" (Elf Song) and "Der Feuerreiter" (The Fire Rider).
- Berliner Philharmoniker
Sir Simon Rattle, Music Director and Conductor
- Camilla Tilling, Soprano
- Bernarda Fink, Mezzo-Soprano
- Westminster Symphonic Choir
Joe Miller, Conductor
- WOLF "Frühlingschor" from Manuel Venegas
- WOLF "Elfenlied"
- WOLF "Der Feuerreiter"
- MAHLER Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection"