Beethoven and more 2011 podcast #12: A musical army | Beethovenfest | DW | 23.09.2011
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Beethoven and more 2011 podcast #12: A musical army

The fourth and last movement of Gustav Mahler's Titan Symphony shuttles the listener off to a universe that encapsulates passion, majesty, epic and delicacy.

Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

Gustav Mahler
Symphony No. 1 in D Major (Titan): 4th movement: Stormily agitated. Energetic

Budapest Festival Orchestra
Conductor: Ivan Fischer

MP3 recorded by West German Radio, Cologne (WDR) on September 17, 2011 in the Beethoven Hall, Bonn

What would the result
be of assembling the best musicians from the Liszt Conservatory into one orchestra? The answer is the Budapest Festival Orchestra, founded twenty-eight years ago by conductor Ivan Fischer.

When 18th century British musicologist Charles Burney heard the Mannheim Orchestra, probably the best of its time, he called it an “army of generals”. These Hungarian virtuosos constitute a similarly powerful musical force of our time. As there is no successful army without intelligent strategy, Ivan Fischer planned his Mahlerian campaign carefully, focusing on the musical contrasts. 

The last movement of the "Titan" Symphony summarizes a small universe which encapsulates passion, majesty, epic and delicacy. It was conceived initially as a tone poem. The program notes of the fourth movement read: “from hell to paradise, expression of a deeply wounded soul”. There is certainly much painful drama but also light and hope in this music.

In his childhood, Mahler enjoyed watching band concerts, parades and Jewish popular music. His use of wind instruments is colored by these experiences. We can hear this in the brilliance of the brass fanfares and in the sarcastic - sometimes cutting - lines of the woodwinds. During his formative years Mahler also assimilated Austro-German “high” musical culture, as revealed in the long, thick legato melodies of warm intensity in the strings.

With their rendition of the Titan Symphony as a sound fresco of intense, cathartic power, Ivan Fischer and his orchestra generated standing ovations.

Author: Maria Santacecilia
Editor: Rick Fulker

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