Mahler: Eighth & Ninth Symphonies Bridgewater Hall Manchester, 2nd May & 27th May, Tel: 0161 907 9000
Few composers have enjoyed such a dramatic revival in reputation as Gustav Mahler. In the 1950s he was dismissed as a marginal offshoot of the Austro-German tradition, his nine completed symphonies distinguished only by their monstrous size and uncannily brilliant orchestration. But now he’s hailed as the world’s favourite symphonist and praised by intellectuals as a prophet of postmodern fragmentation.
The 150th anniversary of Mahler’s birth falls this year, and among the tidal wave of celebrations the one that stands out is at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall. The city’s three orchestras—the Hallé, the BBC Philharmonic and the Manchester Camerata—have teamed up to play a complete cycle of the symphonies plus Das Lied von der Erde. Each symphony is accompanied by a new piece commissioned from a composer known to be fascinated by Mahler. On 2nd May two of the orchestras—the Hallé and the BBC Philharmonic—come together under Mark Elder to play the immense eighth symphony, with an improvisation on a related theme from the greatest living exponent of the French organ tradition, Olivier Latry. On 27th May, Elder returns with the Hallé to perform Mahler’s last complete symphony, the ninth, alongside a new piece from Luke Bedford.
This article originally appeared in the May 2010 edition of Prospect.