April 28, 2012
The Boston Philharmonic revisits one of its signature composers and ends the 2011-2012 season with a riveting and awe-inspiring fourth and final concert, performing Mahler’s massive and technically-demanding Seventh Symphony. Maestro Benjamin Zander, a Mahler devotee with several recordings of the great Austrian symphonist to his credit, leads the orchestra in a dazzling showcase of Mahler’s often overlooked work, a piece the composer hailed as his “greatest” musical achievement after its completion in 1905.
Beginning with a small rhythmic pattern inspired by a summer rowing trip, the Seventh grows steadily into a gigantic display of orchestral power, using a wide variety of instruments seldom heard in a concert hall, such as the guitar, mandolin, tam-tam, glockenspiel, gong and hand-bells. Though never following a specific story or program, the symphony’s five movements—featuring titles like “Night Music” and “Shadowlike”—are cinematic in scope and designed to immerse the audience in a world of images, including scenes of nature, chivalric love and military drama.
True to his belief that musical repetition was something of a “lie,” Mahler infused his Seventh with several catchy melodies and slightly distorted dance forms that never quite take hold, but which build up to a bold and brassy finale that threatens to literally raise the roof. Scholars have referred to the last movement as nothing short of “life-affirming.”