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Mahler's 9th

I went to see Mahler's 9th Symphony yesterday and I still have mixed feelings about it. I went with M, who sings with me in the choir. She loves Mahler, so it was perfect.

Symphony 9 is all about death. He had lost his daughter Maria a few years before, and it's just perfectly on point in so many ways. It's programmatic, I suppose--it tries to depict a storyline/emotion through music. And there are parts where the music is frenzied and furious, and other parts yearning: apply your the X stages of grief and thoughts about death here. It's not atonal, it hangs onto some semblance of harmony, but it's very dissonant sometimes. And there is no resolution ever, except at the very end of the entire symphony. The whole orchestra--and it was a huge orchestra, there must have been a hundred players, there were seven double-bass players (!!), an uncountable army of violins and violas--would sometimes start rushing into a huge loud frenzied passage, and then the cymbals would crash from the back and that was it, there was never any resolution. Tease the fifth, and never go back to the tonic. It was really hard to tell when movements ended, because of this; even near-silence occurred in the middle of movements.

The second movement was my favourite; it was a parody of several dance forms. It started out good-natured, soured, and after another crazy build-up of sound the orchestra went quiet, and then back into the genial original form.

The final movement is Adagio (slow), and is considerably less dissonant. It's the 'peace at the end of the struggle', I suppose. Mahler's a rather morbid composer; he quoted at the end a passage from his older piece Kindertotenlieder (ie songs about dead children, what on earth) about sunlight on the hill (where it's implied basically where his daughter Maria was resting, sjdkljf).

The problems I had with it was mostly repetition. Oh god, Mahler, we get it. We got it the first time, and the second time, and the third and the fourth and fifth and sixth time. When the resolution finally came, he repeated it again and again and again. It was an 8pm concert and both M and I had worked a full shift that day, so I was nodding off in the first movement and in the midst of the clapping after the first movement M said she was falling asleep too. The fourth movement just dragged on; the strings were excellent but it was slow and just went on and on. I like the theme of peace at last, but peace is not very interesting when it's extended like that.

Other thoughts about the concert: someone should write a symphony where the only point of the movements is so that the audience has a break to cough. There was no intermission (two hour concert) so after the first movement there was a huge outbreak of coughing and hacking. Also, someone decided to unwrap a lozenge or candy right in a quiet part. Good job. Seriously, do that sometime else, you can control that. Also the Adagio happened, and someone had an extended coughing fit which they obviously tried to muffle, and I realize that it's involuntary and they can't help it, but the Adagio is so quiet and meant to be peaceful and is sometimes literally only a violin and a viola playing and therefore very quiet and ARGH! Also, there was a part where the strings did not move together and the thought that crossed my mind was "look at the conductor!" and yes, I have been in choirs for way too long.

If I could, I would ban all applause ever after performances. I hate curtain calls, I hate applauding for minutes at a time, I hate being a performer getting applause for so long. And after a movement like that Adagio, which is so quiet, so slow, so peaceful, the applause breaks in and completely shatters the peace.

Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/155669.html.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 3rd, 2014 10:07 am (UTC)
Do have to agree with you about Mahler. I'm only able to bear with a choral or one.... and the 5th which I do like all of. Especially the 4th movement when I feel all weepy and alone and soppy and aaaah-ish.

But the others... erm. Glad your friend enjoyed though.
May. 3rd, 2014 06:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I do usually like choral stuff better than orchestra-only. For this symphony I liked the parts but I didn't like the whole, you know?
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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