Gustav Mahler Celebration
Exactly one hundred and fifty years after the birth of the brilliant composer and conductor Gustav Mahler, a select band of artists gathered in his birthplace, Kaliste, to honour his creative talent in a very special way. Under the direction of the Austri
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This program is a mixture of Mahler songs and movements or excerpts from his symphonies. There were no available subtitles, so the viewer has to be familiar with the content. The only thing negative about this concert was the tepid audience. Were these hundred or so audience members paid to attend, and impatient to get home??
But then, I took a second look at this "Gustav Mahler Celebration." It succeeds very well at what it sets out to do: to commemorate (on the very day, July 7th) the 150th anniversary of Gustav Mahler's birth in 1860. And they do it in the town where he was born, Kaliste, in the Jihlava district of today's Czech Republic.
The setting is lovely: outdoors under trees and with reflecting water between the audience and the orchestra.
The two soloists are accomplished Mahler singers: baritone Thomas Hampson and mezzo soprano Anne Sofie von Otter. They are joined by the young Norwegian soprano, Marita Solberg for the finale of the Mahler Second Symphony. All the soloists live up to their reputations for fine singing, AND they seem to be enjoying the evening as well. They are matched with excellent playing and singing by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra under Manfred Honeck, the Prague Philharmonic Choir, and the Czech Boys Choir.
At my second viewing, I began to fall in love with this magical evening. Here were very accomplished people, lovingly paying tribute to perhaps the greatest composer of all time, and on the very day of his 150 birthday. I wish I could have been there, for the audience did not seem as appreciative as the performances deserved. So, forget old habits, and sit back and enjoy a variety of Mahler's greatest works. As I don't see the program listed for this dvd, I will include below, a listing of all the works in this program.
Symphony 2 First movement, "Totenfeier"
Rheinlegenchen (from Des Knaben "Wunderhorn")
Ging heut morgen ubers Feld (from Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. Thomas Hampson's touching rendering here of Mahler's song is, on its own, worth the price of the dvd.)
Symphony 2 Fourth movement Urlicht
Ich atmet einen linden Duft
Revelge (Des Knaben Wunderhorn)
Es sungen drei Engel (Des Knaben Wunderhorn)
Trost im Ungluck (Des Knaben Wunderhorn) (Note how much Hampson & Otter enjoy themselves in this song)
Symphony 2 (the last part of the final movement)
If you expect the usual lengthy Mahler works or screamingly ecstatic audiences, you'll be disappointed here.
But if you think of it as a rare celebration of the work of Gustav Mahler, with a sampling of his varied abilities at orchestral and choral music, and simply beautiful songs, you'll have found just what you're looking for. Please give it a second look.
The venue was pleasant but incessantly distracting. It seemed as if this film was more about the director, the setting and the photography than the music. The montage of the band during the selection from Symphony 2 became quickly tedious.
But that is the problem with the whole production. It appears as if no one, including the audience, was very enthusiastic about being there. I kept getting the feeling that everyone was thinking, "When is this going to be over?" Alas, as someone who loves the music of Mahler, I felt that way too. The selections were rather oddly chosen as well.
Having said that, the orchestra was good, and it was wonderful to see Anne Sophie Von Otter and Thomas Hampson, but the conductor looked as if he was still studying the score while being fairly histrionic on the podium. That may sound unfair, but watch Abbado conduct Mahler if you want to see a great conductor and hear great Mahler.
In short, save your money on this one and use it to buy either Bernstein or Abbado if you really love Mahler and want to see outstanding performances. For me, this one goes on the bottom of the pile. Any chance of a refund?