Simon Rattle conducts Mahler and Rachmaninov in Singapore

22 Nov 2010

Berliner Philharmoniker
Sir Simon Rattle

  • Sergei Rachmaninov
    Symphonic Dances, op. 45 (39 min.)

  • Gustav Mahler
    Symphony No. 1 in D major (64 min.)

Autumn is the season when Berlin’s foremost orchestra sets off in search of fresh woods and pastures new. Since the 1950s it has regularly undertaken major tours of distant lands. In November 2010, after a stopover in Abu Dhabi, the players flew to Australia for the first time in the orchestra’s history, before returning via Singapore, where they gave an acclaimed concert in the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, a spectacular venue opened only eight years earlier. The programme comprised Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and Mahler’s First Symphony.

Rachmaninov wrote his Symphonic Dances in exile in America in 1940. The three movements were originally intended as a ballet and had programmatic titles that described the course of the day from “Noon” to “Twilight” and “Midnight”. The music is lively in character, in that way forging a link with the composer’s new homeland. At the same time, however, the quotations from Orthodox hymns look back to the old Russia that had disappeared in the upheaval of the October Revolution.

Mahler’s First Symphony received its first performance in 1889 and contains many of the elements that are typical of his musical language. Quotations from both his own works and from folksongs, together with his use of irony and a collage technique, create the stark contrasts that contemporary audiences often found disturbing, as Mahler’s friend Friedrich Löhr reported: “An elegant lady sitting next to me was so startled by the attacca leading into the final movement that she dropped all the things she was holding.” In the view of Gramophone magazine, the orchestra did full justice to this rollercoaster of the emotions: “The ironies of the middle movements are gently done, the finale’s triumph not blaring but grandly affirmative in a way that, as Rattle remarks, Mahler would never recover.”

EuroArtsFilmed at the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, Singapore
© 2010 EuroArts Music International

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