Of all the symphonies that Mahler wrote, the Fourth is the lightest and sunniest. The cheerful bells in the opening measures immediately evoke images of skipping horses for a sleigh. Also, Mahler, unlike what we are used to from him, is fine with a modest orchestra line-up. Not that the melancholic Mahler is completely absent - in the second part, for example, the violin plays a dance of death - but every time it gets dark, the sun breaks through quickly.
With the first three parts, Mahler takes a run-up to the climax of this symphony, the song Das himmlische Leben. In it he gives us a peek into the children's paradise where little angels frolic and laugh together. The sentences that the Australian soprano Eleanor Lyons sings are typical of the atmosphere of the symphony, for example: “We lead an angelic life, but also have fun. The angel choirs spoil the ears. Beautiful asparagus and dill and everything we want above. The deer and hares are grazing freely. The angels bake the bread. ”Many Mahler enthusiasts find this his most beautiful symphony.
It was none other than Johannes Brahms who judged Verdi’s Requiem a work of pure genius. Nevertheless, the masterpiece for four soloists, orchestra and double choir came close to never even seeing the light of day. In 1871 the composer had grumbled that there were so many requiems it would make no sense to compose yet another one.
Barely two years later, a deeply moved Verdi swallowed these words when his idol Alessandro Manzoni - symbol of the united Italy - died. This politician and writer had understood the Italian identity in his masterly novel The Betrothed. He also laid the foundation for a unified Italian language. Displeased because he felt his national figurehead was insufficiently revered, Verdi decided to commemorate him with this mass.
But is the Messa da Requiem really church music or covertly an opera? Just before the premiere, the famous music critic Hans von Bülow looked at the score. ‘Verdi’s final opera, but this time in religious garb,’ he snapped. Years later, when Von Bülow had heard the requiem and was moved to tears, he humbly begged the composer’s forgiveness for his ‘journalistic sin.’ Even this great sceptic proved unable to deal with Verdi’s theatrical power. Never before had the Day of Judgment been expressed so powerfully as in his stormy Dies irae, which opens with the four iconic thunderclaps. Fortunately, conductor Alejo Pérez finally liberates the audience with the blissful Libera me.
How do you choose your path?
Do you follow your pleasures or stay the straight and narrow?
Do you prefer chaos or order?
Most of us cling to the safety of what we know. But if we dare to dissolve morals we are left to trust our unfiltered emotions… That unpredictable part of you yearns to be released.
Simone Young and the Sydney Symphony close the 2019 season in legendary style.
The charismatic Simone Young is one of Australia’s finest musical exports, at home in opera theatres and concert halls. Her gift for shaping musical narratives and mustering huge forces are valuable assets in Gustav Mahler’s dark and theatrical fairy tale.
Enchanted horns usher into dark forests where two brothers vie for the queen’s hand, with dire consequences… Inspired by stories from the Brothers Grimm, Das klagende Lied (The Sorrowful Song) calls for singers, choir and two orchestras (one of them off-stage). It is Mahler’s astonishingly assured opus one, a preview of his epic, kaleidoscopic symphonies. Like those, it bursts with the magic and mystery of nature, and the joys and fears of childhood.
Performing with her friends violinist Miriam Helms Ålien, cellist Ildikó Szabó and pianist István Lajkó .
Szenen aus Goethes Faust is one of the best-kept secrets of romantic music theatre. In this magnum opus, Schumann pays tribute to Goethe. Both of these artists made Faustus and his pact with the devil into their life’s work, in both cases utterly unique and timelessly universal.
Faust is a disappointed scholar, fruitlessly searching for the most profound truth. Mephistopheles takes him in tow in exchange for his soul. This will lead ultimately to deliverance, but the journey is an existential rollercoaster ride of endeavour, falling and again and again scrambling to his feet. Faust: that’s us.
Schumann captures the essence of the drama in seven iconic scenes that get relentlessly under your skin. It’s not worth trying to categorise this score: like Faust, the listener is in for a switchback-ride through a landscape of unprecedented colour. Opera crossed with oratorio; an orchestral song wafts past polyphonic church music; a children’s chorus can be heard in the distance. And yet the part and the whole do not lose sight of each other for a moment.
The conductor Philippe Herreweghe says Szenen aus Goethes Faust is nothing less than a masterpiece. According to him, Schumann’s theatrical writing requires a visual setting. And this is supplied by the ideal person: Julian Rosefeldt, director of such films and installations as Manifesto (2015) with Cate Blanchett. Together with the choreographer Femke Gyselinck, he sets Schumann’s Faust resolutely in the here and now. The counterpoint of video, dance and acting brings the whole richness of the Faustian condition to life: from tragic love to relentless progress and an ultimate transfiguration of cosmic dimensions.