Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mahler and Wagner

Last night the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed two of my favorites from the era of nineteenth century Romantic music. The concert opened with Richard Wagner's Siegfried Idyll performed by a small ensemble under the direction of Bernard Haitink. This pastoral work is famous for its evocation of Wagner's love for his bride Cosima and was named for their young son. The theme was later incorporated into the opera Siegfried, the third section of the 'Ring Cycle' of operas. The concluding and main work of the evening was Gustav Mahler's great 6th Symphony in a minor. This is truly a tragic symphony filled with marches and dark sections of melancholy meditations. While there is some relief with a soaring romantic theme in the first movement and lyrical moments in the slow third movement, this is overtaken by serious explosions of sound from the horns. The final movement is filled with climaxes that each end with a tremendous hammer blow. In spite of the great boisterousness of the music I was still shocked out of my seat by the final chords. The orchestra performed beautifully under the baton of the esteemed Principal Conductor, Bernard Haitink. This was a concert that I will remember for a long time.

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