Gustav Mahler, like Beethoven and Schubert, wrote 9 symphonies. But, from a duration standpoint, with a standard set by Beethoven’s first symphony, he wrote more like 18 symphonies. While Beethoven and Schubert wrote symphonies whose DNA connected them to Haydn and Mozart, Mahler’s symphonic DNA, though connected to Beethoven, was equally connected to the opera house. Though his aesthetic is not rooted in the world of Verdi or even Wagner, his sense of drama, his scope of emotion, and his freedom from hard-line symphonic form make his symphonies often feel like operas without words. They are so powerfully propelled by a sense of drama and direction that a solid hour and a third of music often ends up feeling compressed into minutes. Mahler’s Seventh is his least played, and perhaps least understood. The third of his middle symphonies that have no singers or chorus. The orchestra is large, but not his largest—and is most notable for the brief, but important, inclusion of mandolin and guitar. The work, like so much Mahler, is deeply personal—and vacillates, sometimes with dramatic swings, between painful intimacy and spectacular bombast.
For program notes on the concert, click here.