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Opening concert – Mahler Symphony No. 3

More than ‘simply’ a symphony, Mahler’s vast and mighty Third was his optimistic musical depiction of the meaning of life as he saw it. Sir Simon Rattle conducts the VFO, mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená, the Oberwalliser Vokalensemble and Cantiamo Oberwallis.


GUSTAV MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 3 in D minor

‘Just imagine a work of such magnitude that it actually mirrors the whole world.’ So said Mahler of his Third Symphony, and certainly the work he premiered in 1902 met that brief with its vast forces and six movements depicting his understanding of life and the universe. Originally subtitled Pan Awakes, Summer Marches In, the first movement opens in cold, majestic darkness, its brass theme sounding like a soulless transformation of Brahms’s First Symphony’s heroic horn theme; triumph enters with the ensuing marches, but late. After a carefree alpine meadow scene, the Scherzando third movement evokes the animal kingdom. Mystery returns with the fourth, the mezzo singing the ‘Midnight Song’ from Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra, describing the depth of the world’s suffering, but how its joy runs deeper. The fifth takes us to the heavens, the choruses joyously singing a 17th century hymn text. The symphony then concludes on a ravishing Langsam marked ‘Peaceful. Heartfelt.’