“An astonishing jumble of styles – and an ear-splitting, nerve-shattering din. I had never heard anything like it. It was exhilarating, but no less irritating.” So wrote Alma Schindler, the composer’s wife-to-be, upon hearing Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, Titan at its Vienna première in 1900.

Laughed at through most of his lifetime, Gustav Mahler is the composer of nine-and-a-bit symphonies that are today among the most popular in the classical repertoire. Indeed, symphonic concerts are rarely greeted with such enthusiasm as this cycle, at Southbank Centre.

…Amidst the noisy clashing of cymbals is some of the most poignant symphonic music ever written…

Whatever you may think of his music – and it is indisputably flawed – this year’s ten-concert cycle of Mahler symphonies and lieder is something very special.

Here’s why

Amidst the noisy clashing of cymbals and loud blasts of brass, is to be found some of the most poignant symphonic music ever written. Listen to the Adagio of the Ninth, for an example. Then there’s the conductor: A true child prodigy, eighty one-year-old maestro Lorin Maazel made his conducting debut in the States at the age of eight. Five decades later with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, Maazel the modernist pioneer is on absolute top form.  His presence at the Royal Festival Hall guarantees a night of fine music-making.

At the composer’s bicentenary, there’s never been a better time to experience Mahler.

The cycle continues until 9th October.

Tickets start at £8/£4.

Visit the Philharmonia website for further information.

4 1/2 Stars

Image courtesy of Richard Haughton


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