The Toronto Symphony Orchestra opened their 2010-2011 season with a bang--Mahler's "Resurrection Symphony". Since 2011 is the 100th anniversary of Gustav Mahler's death, his works are showing up on the schedules for a lot of orchestras I follow. For example, Baltimore opened with Symphony 7 and has 4 other pieces planned for the season. The NAC Orchestra is doing Mahler's 4th Symphony near the end of the season, but it's still there. Indianapolis has Mahler's 5th in a few weeks, and if I kept looking maybe I could find all 10 of the symphonies somewhere.
Prior to Sept. 25 when I attended the TSO concert, I'd heard OF Mahler, but never actually HEARD Mahler. I don't know why I waited so long! As usual if I'm attending something new I look for it on Youtube. I found a version conducted by Leonard Bernstein, a famous conductor, so I figured it was a pretty good rendition. Once the symphony started (the orchestra began with "O Canada", both verses, I didn't know it had 2 verses! Must be a season opening thing because I've never seen them play that before) I quickly discovered Youtube does not do Mahler justice, well it probably doesn't do a lot justice, but definitely not Mahler!
From the opening notes I was entranced. I think my mouth was hanging open for parts of it and there was so much to take in visually. There was no getting drowsy in this program. The melody passed to various instruments and never got lost for me, the balance between everything was incredible even with a huge orchestra. Symphony 2 is scored for a lot of what I'd consider extras to a typical orchestra complement (such as 4 clarinets, 2 E-flat clarinets, 4 oboes, 4 bassoons, 2 harps, etc. and 10 HORNS - which was incredible). At a few points the clarinets and horns even pointed their bells up. Is that a Mahler thing? Did he write to do that in the music?
The offstage playing of horns and percussion in the fifth movement was interesting. According to the program notes by Don Anderson, "The first part of the concluding movement is emotionally uncertain, haunted by the evocative echoes of off-stage horns and whispered, fragmentary allusions to the Dies irae (Day of Wrath)". I'd agree with the haunting aspect for sure, especially since it follows this touching mezzo-soprano solo "Urlicht" (Primeval Light), which I liked more than the vocal parts in the final movement.
The local library is now hunting for their recording of Mahler 2 since it's not on the shelf and I'm anxious to hear it again. If only I had free flights anywhere in North America, I would make that list of which orchestras were doing what and maybe hear all 10 symphonies in a season. Alas, some dreams don't come true.
But attending more TSO concerts does. Tonight is a much lighter subject with "Rhapsody in Blue". I can't wait. More soon.