Thursday, April 02, 2009

There are no longer human voices, but planets and suns revolving

Mahler's VIII Symphony was written for thousands musicians. "The Symphony of a Thousand" is its second name.

Huge orchestra, with off-stage brass section and three choirs of more than 800 singers, form the setting of one of the most unusual pieces of music that I ever listened to.

See the size of the orchestra on this video:

When performed first in 1910 in Munich, evoked such emotions that it was later called "one of the greatest triumphs in the history of music". But - what makes it even greater - it is far from any kind of pathos or musical hubris so typical to similar acts of Wagner or other composers of late romantic era in the Viennese-German culture of the XIX century.

Mahler selects two, at first glance, totally distant texts. First, Latin, Catholic "Veni Creator Spiritus", and second - the final scene of Goethe's "Faust". Both - deeply spiritual texts form a program for the symphony, that - because of their distance is hard to fully grasp.

Mahler, when talked about the composition process of VIII used to say about "signs from 'out there', a kind of mystical annunciations". And there is something like that.
One of the most moving moment comes at Adagio in II part, exactly when the men chorus starts to sing dark Goethe text ending in "Tame about us - The holy shrine of Love".

And my last word is that Mahler's VIII is not the symphony you listen to once and grasp its gist. It is impossible. Before I watched it, conducted by Leonard Bernstein:

I listened to Antoni Wit performance many times. And still have desire to come back to it - just to discover new emotions, new affections, new spiritual reflections....

For those who live in US. You have great chance in 2009 with Mahler's and his VIII. Open THIS link.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting on this symphony (and all of them!) - the links, plus your reflection, are a great invitation to explore and experience this work.
    Actually - it is so good that I had to check airfares to Colorado!