Simon Rattle conducts Mahler’s Seventh Symphony at the Royal Albert Hall
02 Sep 2016
Sir Simon Rattle
Éclat (first version for 15 instruments from 1965) (11 min.)
Symphony No. 7 (82 min.)
Hardly any other institution has been more successful at breaking down barrier towards classical music with the general public than the London “Proms”. The series of summer concerts started in 1895, and since 1941 has taken place in the magnificent Royal Albert Hall, a venue which can accommodate up to 9500 spectators. With affordable ticket prices and a unique, relaxed but focused atmosphere, the Proms have realised the goal of their legendary founder, Sir Henry Wood, “of truly democratising the message of music, and making its beneficent effect universal” for over 120 years.
The spirit of the concerts is both typically British – especially at the famous Last Night of the Proms – and international: the Proms have long been one of the most popular performance venues of the best orchestras from all over the world. The Berliner Philharmoniker appeared for the first time in 1991 with a performance of Gustav Mahler’s Fourth Symphony conducted by Claudio Abbado. This time, under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle, the programme also includes a work by Mahler: the Seventh, plus Pierre Boulez’s Éclat.
Gustav Mahler's Seventh Symphony fits perfectly into the traditional Proms programme which skilfully balances popular and more challenging works. Hardly any other movement by the composer seems to have such a radiant, unequivocally jubilant character as the finale of this work, while contemporary critics also assumed the always ambiguous composer’s intentions at this point to be parody. The second and fourth movements, both entitled Nachtmusik, have an irresistible charm, with the latter in particular conjuring up distinctive sound images through the use of the guitar.
The Berliner Philharmoniker and their chief conductor are juxtaposing the epic scale of Mahler with Pierre Boulez’s Éclat – a work of the utmost density and economy, lasting barely eight minutes, and orchestrated for chamber ensemble – in commemoration of the great French composer and conductor who the music world lost in January 2016.