Mahler with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at Carnegie Hall
Matthew Polenzani and mezzo-soprano Susan Graham will sing selections from Gustav Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn in a highly anticipated performance with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, hosted on May 31. Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the programme (see the complete details here) which also features Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 (“Titan”). Purchase tickets for this not-to-be-missed event which serves as the season finale for the Met Opera Orchestra in NYC: CarnegieHall.org
Programme notes: Songs and symphonies form the two pillars of Mahler’s output, and both genres are represented on tonight’s program. Although Mahler was an esteemed opera conductor—arguably the greatest of his time—he never composed for the stage. Besides his symphonies and many songs, only one movement of a chamber work and a youthful cantata survive. Tonight’s concert opens with 10 songs on texts from Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim’s collection of German folk songs titled Des Knaben Wunderhorn, which began to appear in print in 1805 and quickly became a seminal text. Des Knaben Wunderhorn is not without its emotional complications, and the melancholic Mahler was no doubt drawn to the collection’s themes of unrequited love, doom-laden militarism, and desperate hopes for a better life.
Mahler’s First Symphony drew much of its melodic material from his early song cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer), begun in the mid-1880s. The symphony also drew on other late–18th- and early–19th-century sources, including Jean Paul’s Titan and Siebenkäs, E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Fantasiestücke in Callots Manier, and Schubert’s friend Moritz von Schwind’s woodcut of a hunter’s funeral. As the work’s performance history progressed, Mahler removed these references, including the subtitle “Titan,” preferring the illusion of abstraction to possible critical indignation at the work’s programmatic roots. Nonetheless, Mahler’s symphony still strikes an extramusical note, offering both a bold continuation of the symphonic tradition pioneered by Beethoven and a poetic evocation of the landscape of Central Europe, albeit with a vein of nostalgia.