Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor
About the event
While the BFO’s highly successful series, the Mahler Cycle, came to a close in 2013 to be replaced by the Bridging Europe festival, Iván Fischer – the founder of the Hungarian Mahler Society – continues to spotlight the master’s works on a regular basis. This time, he will guide us on a journey from death to love and the desire to live.
In 1901, following a serious illness, Gustav Mahler began to compose music with surprising speed. Despite his desire to create and to live, the majority of the works he wrote in this period, including the ones on the programme this evening, explore the topic of death.
The songs kicking off the concert were composed to poems by Friedrich Rückert. The author was attempting to cope with the death of his two children by writing 428 poems; Mahler set five of these to music for solo voice and chamber ensembles. When he completed the cycle, the songs of which form an indivisible whole, he did not know that he was to lose his own daughter the following year. The songs – evoking an unhappy sunrise, death reflected in the eyes of children, the emptiness of the most mundane activities and the hazy hope of undoing the past – lead ultimately to acceptance, expressed in the bright major key of the fifth piece. The concert will feature mezzo-soprano Gerhild Romberger, a return guest of the BFO.
Mahler’s marriage with Alma Schindler brought unprecedented positive energy to the composer’s life. Symphony No. 5, which begins in a minor key, moves up a semitone to a major key for the finale. While this was the first work of Mahler’s for which he did not write a text explaining the programme, the score includes a number of suggestive instructions. Divided into three major parts, Mahler’s five-movement piece includes a funeral march, a storm, a dance, a confession of love to his wife (this Adagietto is one of his best-known pieces of music) and a light-hearted finale. “A must-hear version,” wrote one critic of the BFO’s 2013 recording of the same symphony – and we feel confident the same will hold true of the concert performance.