Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Early Mahler

We live near some great music schools here in Boston. We like to visit two of them, and yesterday we went to New England Conservatory to hear the first in a series of programs they are offering celebrating the life and work of Gustav Mahler.

Tickets to this event were free, but they came with a catch. In order to get a good seat, you had to arrive in time to hear an academic presentation at 5:30, and then you could keep your seat for the 7:30 concert. Truthfully, I wasn't too interested in the lecture, but Alla wanted to go and I figured that sitting through a potentially-boring lecture would be an OK price of admission for a concert in the Conservatory's gorgeous concert hall.

Well, the lecture was not boring. Gilbert Kaplan, the lecturer, really knows his stuff. He's a world-renowned conductor of Mahler's music and he speaks very entertainingly. He illustrated his talk with sheet music, comics, recorded music, and lively stories. I'm really glad we came to the lecture, which fully prepared us to listen to the program and helped us understand important aspects of Mahler's life.

After the lecture we ate a picnic dinner and returned to our seats for the concert. They played the original version of Mahler's First Symphony. This version did not please the audience when Mahler was young, and he reworked it over the course of twenty years to the version we know today. One of the Conservatory students spent the entire summer transcribing the original manuscripts for the use of the musicians and director at our concert, and we really enjoyed the results of his work.

Actually, the whole audience really enjoyed it. Perhaps the audience included more than a few students who knew the folks on the stage, but I think we all felt like we'd been treated to something extraordinary. Most of us probably like the final version better, but the original version still works really well and I don't think I've ever seen an audience show so much enthusiasm over a classical performance. Last night's audience went practically berserk with ecstasy. I'm super-glad that we went. 

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