We had a wonderful time with Mahler's Second Symphony, Sunday. For some people, Gustav Mahler is one of those composers who is difficult to approach. All those funeral marches, the death shrieks, the jaunty folk tunes. Not to mention the incredible length of his symphonies.
But we broke it down with musical context, the cataclysmic changes erupting during Mahler's lifetime and why his music has such a powerful effect on us. With cue sheets in hand, we listened to much of this wonderful recording by Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Orchestra:
The key to understanding Mahler, as Leonard Bernstein said, is his duality. A composer and a conductor. Born Jewish, converted to Catholicism. Naive in some ways, sophisticated in others. Terrified of death, yearning for immortality. Music of great vulgarity and radiant beauty. Born in rural Bohemia, rising to the top musical post in Europe's music capital.
Since music director Carlos Kalmar arrived in Portland in 2003, he has conducted all but one of Mahler's 10 symphonies with the Oregon Symphony. No. 8, "Symphony of a Thousand," is the exception. The orchestra performs Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection," May 20, 21, 22, 2017. I, for sure, will be there.
Next class: "Weather Wonders," how composers respond to rain, wind, oceans and sunrises. 4 p.m. Dec. 18. Classic Pianos, 3003 SE Milwaukie & Powell Blvd., Portland. 503-546-5622. Join us!
David Stabler is a pianist, writer, dad and cyclist. He's working on a novel based on his childhood years living in Africa and plans to ride across America with his brother this summer.