Programme Guide

Gustav Mahler died in Vienna on 18 May 1911. Exactly 100 years later, the Berliner Philharmoniker commemorated this anniversary with a special concert under the direction of their former chief conductor Claudio Abbado. Over the decades, the partnership of Abbado and the orchestra frequently turned to the works of Mahler after first performing the Rückert-Lieder in the Philharmonie in 1967. And for quite a few classical music fans, Abbado’s Mahler performances marked the high point of his Berlin years. Just how enthusiastic the response was, can be understood today from concert reviews of the time: “It was almost a surprise that they didn’t literally bring the house down in the finale. With a concert like this, no-one can match the Philharmoniker,” was how Die Welt described a performance of the Seventh Symphony in 2001.

Here, Abbado conducted two works by the composer on the theme of saying farewell: on the one hand, Das Lied von der Erde, composed at a time of personal tragedy in 1907 when Mahler’s daughter Maria died, and the composer himself found out about his own serious heart condition. As a result, the Lied von der Erde seems in many passages like an elegiac meditation on the finiteness of all life. The same can be said about the Adagio from the Tenth Symphony. The movement starts off tentatively, without any clear direction: music which wants nothing more and which, as it continues, dissolves slowly into nothingness.

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