Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony

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(Gustav and Alma Mahler)

Tonight Xian and I are going to Powell Hall to hear the SLSO and SLSO Chorus, conducted by new music director and all-around swell fellow Stéphane Denève, perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”). Although I didn’t write the notes for that concert—or any notes for the SLSO since the beginning of last season—I did feel inspired to post my program notes (dsopn121317 ) for Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony, originally published for a 2018 concert by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the Meyerson in Dallas.

I’m  going to be thinking about resurrections and rebirths (René means reborn, not that I chose my own name or anything), and possibly updating this site more regularly than every several months. I do have a lot of new chamber music writing that I could add, for a Tippet Rise concert season that just ended. Tonight, at Powell Hall, I’m going to be enjoying the dulcet tones of my friend Patty Kofron and her peerless colleagues in the SLSO Chorus. Patty also helped me purchase my tickets, with the usual stipulation that I’d much rather hear well than see well. She’s a gem, and I love talking with her about music as much as I enjoy dishing the musical dirt with her.

Since this is my personal blog I should probably take the opportunity to muse more about Mahler and bring up all the Mahlerian matters that I can’t discuss in the genre of Professional Notes I Get Paid For. If I were more of a Lester Bangsian annotator, I might bring up a decades-past experience involving an illicit psychedelic substance and a recording of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s staggering interpretation of Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder. I might mention, or even reproduce, a minutely handwritten letter to a friend that I was writing while listening to this Children Death Songs cycle, over and over again, in the company of the aspiring composer I was living with, co-captain of our extremely boring-to-recount-and-yet-harrowing-to-experience trip). For several consecutive hours, neither of us wanted to listen to anything else except this song cycle about dead children, and I must thank the unnamed aspiring composer (and indirectly his professor) for hooking us up with the good stuff, that Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recording, still my favorite, which was that night branded into my brain forever and ever amen. This is my favorite song in the cycle, the one I couldn’t quit hitting repeat on: “Nun will die Sonn so hell aufgehn.” If the link doesn’t work (I won’t seem to spring for the premium plan, all you profiteering WordPress executive scoundrels), just search Youtube or your favorite streaming service for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing it, and you won’t regret it.

My mind was already primed for the over-the-top intensity verging on kitsch sentimentality of the dead-child concept, thanks partly to the great Dolly Parton and her vast canon of ballads about victimized children. Listen to a lot of classic country music (Dolly and the Louvin Brothers and Leadbelly and the Carter Family and George and Tammy), as I was doing at the time of my primal, hallucinogen-enhanced Mahler encounter, and the theme of dead kids is going to come up again and again, the same way it does in Renaissance poetry and my daily newspaper (St. Louis City, my heartbreaker of a hometown, maintains a high tally of murdered children, among them my husband’s recently murdered coworker’s recently murdered 10-year-old daughter). The details change, but the acute and particular grief of surviving a child is eternal. The pain of that loss barely seems endurable, and yet millions and millions have endured it or are enduring it right now. They can’t go on, they go on.  Mahler and Dolly and the Louvin Brothers and Shakespeare and Dickens and Beckett and Morrison, so many unsung others, turn our constant sorrow into a tribute, a consolation, a promise. A grief-stained joy almost seems possible.

Fabio Luisi conducts the DSO

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American composer and conductor William Grant Still

On April 18, 2019, Music Director Designate Fabio Luisi led the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in a concert featuring William Grant Still’s Poem for Orchestra (1944), Frank Martin’s Concerto for Wind Instruments, Percussion, and String Orchestra (1949), and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 (1813).

If you weren’t lucky enough to be present at the Meyerson, you can still check out the concert thanks to the wonders of Vimeo. The video is available to stream until May 23, 2019. It’s an exciting program, and the first two works aren’t programmed nearly often enough.

Here is a link to the concert. Remember to watch it before it disappears on May 23:

https://tinyurl.com/y2bvn482

Here are my program notes:

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And just for the hell of it, here is another photo of Still, because he’s a brown-eyed handsome man:

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Franck, Schumann, and Dvořák

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Here is a program I wrote about for Dallas Symphony last season, on Franck’s Le Chasseur maudit (“The Accursed Huntsman”), Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8. I have a big backlog of Dallas programs that I haven’t added here, so I’m just going to put them up when I have a spare moment or two.

Also, it gives me a chance to re-share my favorite portrait of Dvořák.

 

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Lutoslawski, Mozart, and Brahms

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I wrote about Witold Lutoslawski (pictured at his piano), specifically his Concerto for Orchestra, as well as Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27, Mozart’s final work in that form, and Brahms’s Fourth (and final) Symphony. A slightly altered version of these program notes accompanied a recent Dallas Symphony concert.

 

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Two Wolfgangs

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“The Requiem is beautiful, like everything Mozart made, but it’s also profoundly scary. It sucks your measly soul into its wild dark maw and swallows it whole.”

Later today (Sunday, November 20), I’m going to see the St. Louis Symphony and Chorus perform Mozart’s Requiem, about which I am very excited. My friend Patty is singing, which is always a pleasure, and I’m going with my longtime pal Cat Pick, also always a pleasure. I didn’t write the program notes for this concert, but as it happens, I did write about Mozart’s Requiem for the Dallas Symphony a couple of seasons ago. Here’s an oldie-but-hopefully-goodie: Wolfgang Rihm’s Trio Concerto and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem. These notes were originally published in a somewhat different form, in the spring of 2015, but I hold the copyright, so here they are in their original incarnation.

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Hitchcock composers, Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Bernard Herrmann with Alfred Hitchcock

Bernard Herrmann with Alfred Hitchcock

Long time, no blog post. I’m pleased to report that I’m now writing program annotations for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, in addition to my beloved St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Here is my first assignment, for their Pops program: a concert featuring some of Hitchcock’s finest composers, including the immortal Bernard Herrmann, on whom I have developed a late-life crush. In unrelated news, I have a new dog named Edith. She is absolutely perfect in every way.

https://www.dallassymphony.com/media/252920/hitchcock_-_insert_6_final.pdf

Edith and me