Programme guide

Mahler’s Third Symphony is a gigantic work in every respect. Firstly, in terms of time: the opening movement alone is longer than the whole of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. It is however in this work in particular that Mahler creates a cosmos of the most diverse expressive worlds. This recording documents the first time the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle performed this work together.

“To me, a symphony means constructing a world with all the technical means at one’s disposal.” – no other work illustrates this quote by Mahler more impressively than his Third Symphony. Raw power and lyrical simplicity, scenes of nature and an orchestral final chorus of ethereal beauty all add up to a multifarious yet coherent whole. The second movement is of particular historical significance to the Berliner Philharmoniker, as the orchestra gave its first public performance in November 1896 under the direction of Arthur Nikisch, a good five years before the premiere of the complete work.

As a prelude to the Third Symphony, the programme includes vocal works by two composers who, along with Mahler, had a decisive influence on the Viennese music scene at the end of the 19th century. Firstly Johannes Brahms, who as one of the last Romantics was met partly with admiration, partly with scorn. In sharp contrast, there is Hugo Wolf and his need to define the future of music. Mahler was one of the few who had respect for both factions, being both rooted in the great symphonic tradition and constantly searching for new forms of expression.

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