Monday, November 05, 2007

Word to Your Mahler

Yesterday my orchestra, the Arlington Philharmonic, performed our Fall concert. We always close this performance, full bore, with a big symphony. This time we did a symphony by Kallinikov (No. 1 in G minor), that I had never heard before, or even heard of. Somebody mentioned that it was a popular symphony with youth orchestras, which may be true, but it was nonetheless challenging for our players. However, Kallinikov's #1 is not the subtlest of symphonies, allowing us to hash through its often long-winded and grandiose gestures effectively. I don't really mean to disrespect either the symphony, which certainly has some stirring passages, or our players, who are always spirited and committed, but I must admit that this symphony is just not one my favorites.

We also played a series of five songs by Gustav Mahler scored for orchestra and voice based on poems by Freidrich Ruckert. Our voice was supplied by the wonderful young soprano Dana Schnitzer. I've never performed orchestral lieder like this before, and it was a great pleasure to do so and to learn these wonderful songs. The songs are not really linked, and as such are all quite distinct musically and textually. "Ich atmet einen linden Duft" ("I breated a gentle fragrance") is spacious and surreal, "Un Mitternacht" ("At Midnight") is powerful and heavy, searching and challenging. Best of all is the moving "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" ("I am lost to the World"), a slow, restful song about death, about moving past the living world into a realm of peace and serenity, a subject that brought out the best in Mahler. (It also is a theme that the great mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt-Leiberson excelled at, and there is a great recording of these pieces, though just with piano accompaniment, with her at the helm). Playing these pieces with a talent like Dana's was a real pleasure, and I found the experience quite moving.

Though I often complain about my orchestra, about having to go to rehearsal when I'd rather go home and vegetate, about our often gloriously amateur performances, about feeling unprepared because of my unwillingness to practice adequately, it has always been an enjoyable and rewarding part of my life, and of my week, and has only grown so over the years. Yesterday, while playing the last movement of the Kallinikov (not my favorite piece) for a very small crowd (Pats - Colts game on the tube) I realized how much I was enjoying myself, and how much I was putting into my playing, how focused I was (at least until I started thinking about how much I was enjoying myself...) even as I was faking it through some of the more challenging figures...well, I don't really know where I'm going with this, but God Bless Music. Writing and storytelling may have taken over my more worldly aspirations and much of my creative energies of late, but music is is...

1 comment:

Esme kenney said...

So how did it go?????? I have a concert in december for Cello and Vocal and Gutiar. See ya!!!!!!!