Behind every Mahler symphony there is a good story. A story or program, whether literary, philosophical, spiritual or personal, that the composer tried to hide, especially since 1900. He says the musicologist Constantin Floros who began, in 1977, a great trilogy dedicated to the exegesis of his symphonies Mahler did not want to condition the public or make him read during the concerts. But he also intended to distance any comparison with the symphonic poems of Richard Strauss and avoid the sharp darts of the Viennese criticism, headed by the formalist Eduard Hanslick. In spite of everything, the Austrian composer always maintained that, after Beethoven, there was no good music possible without an internal program. And many other creators who tried to hide the subterranean tales of their compositions, from Schumann and Tchaikovsky to Schönberg and Berg, must have thought the same thing. Of all Mahler's symphonies, Third it is the most prodigal in information about its internal program. The composer was extraordinarily communicative with his surroundings during his conception and creative process, in the summers of 1895 and 1896. Famous is, for example, what he said to the conductor Bruno Walter when he received him at the pier of Steinbach-am-Attersee , while contemplating the imposing Höllengebirge mountain range: "You do not have to look around, I have already included everything you see in my symphony".
Mahler's challenge in this work was no less: write a kind of musical cosmogony. For this he relied on a complex collage of philosophical readings of Schopenhauer, Fechner and Nietzsche. But Floros discovered that his main literary script was two poems by his friend Siegfried Lipiner published within his Buch der Freude (1880): "Genesis", which represents the creation of the world from a great cloud from which arises the firmament, the sun, the earth, the vegetable kingdom, the animal kingdom and humanity, and "Anthem", which deals with the love, the theme of the beautiful final movement of the symphony. Precisely, in relation to the composition of this work, Mahler wrote, in a letter to the violinist Natalie Bauer-Lechner, one of his most famous statements: "Creating a symphony means building a world with all the technical means at my disposal. "
GUSTAV MAHLER JUGENDORCHESTER. Orfeón Donostiarra. Donostiako Orfeoi Txikia. Elena Zhidkova, mezzo-soprano. Jonathan Nott, address. Mahler: Third symphony. Kursaal Eszena Kursaal Auditorium, March 7.
The British conductor Jonathan Nott (Solihull, 1962) He led, yesterday at the Kursaal in San Sebastian, the "construction" of that Mahlerian world. He did it in front of the youth orchestra Gustav Mahler (GMJO) at the start of their annual Spanish tour with Ibermúsica. Nott is not only an accredited Mahlerian, who has recorded the cycle of the nine symphonies completed with the Bamberg Symphony (Tudor), but also a regular collaborator of youth orchestras. He is responsible for the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie and in his last visit to Spain with the GMJO, in 2015, directed, precisely, an impressive and narrative Second symphony, of Mahler. Adora manage the potential of these sets and does not dodge the risk. We checked it already at the start of the Third with that kind of diana touch with eight horns in fortísimo. Mahler finishes off that initial theme with pairs of chords to put the whole orchestra in formation, but prevents his score from being done without hurrying. And Nott retains the musicians in those chords to reinforce the notion that we are awakening after a dream. The whole narrative of the extensive first movement was an interesting conjunction of structure and emotion. It was not an ideal version, because the concentration of the orchestra fell slightly in the metals, but there were especially brilliant moments in the introduction and development. He highlighted in his solos the English trombonist William Foster and, especially, the French violinist Raphaëlle Moreau. And the most interesting was the final sequence of development that starts with a march, played ideally by double basses and cellos, and continues with a battle and a storm that dissipates with the return of the initial target touch.
Perhaps the best movement of the whole symphony was the second. Here Nott displayed his masterly cantabile and tasted every tune of this country trip that Mahler entitled "What flowers tell me in the meadow." The movement rests on the shoulders of the rope and the wood, which are the two main strengths of this excellent youth orchestra; alternated charm in the sequences of the happy minuet and sinister expertise in the trios in minor mode. After the vegetable kingdom, Mahler reveals the animal kingdom in the third movement where he uses a song of his own that narrates the death of the cuckoo and the consolation that supposes his relief by the nightingale. Nott again raised the narrative capacity of music, by opposing the episodes in major and minor mode, until the irruption of man, here represented by a solo exhibition of flugelhorn in the distance, from which Galician trumpeter Víctor Bouzas was quite successful.
The start of the fourth movement, in which the struggle of humanity to make sense of the world with a fragment of Thus spoke Zarathustra, of Nietzsche, was another glorious moment of the night. With that silky sound carpet of the harp with the bass strings in pianississimo which slides the entrance of the expressive voice of Russian mezzo-soprano Elena Zhidkova, a singer well known in Spanish theaters, especially in Wagnerian roles. In fact, his voice sounded here like a new Brangania that now throws its warnings to all humanity. Nott uninterruptedly linked the last movements of the symphony and, for that reason, the contrast with the fifth movement was more pronounced with that leap into the angelic world of The magic trunk of the boy. But the most important thing here was the placement of the children's choir, the Donostiako Orfeoi Txikia, with the bells up on a side balcony of the Kursaal, as Mahler points out in his score. That effect, which worked perfectly coordinated with the female members of the Orfeón Donostiarra at the back of the stage with the soloist at the front, and with Nott turning around to give all the inputs, admirably raised a movement that did not it is usually the most prominent of this Mahlerian symphony. Marvelous and spatial vocal and orchestral conjunction.
But the epicenter of all Third mahleriana, which is the final slow movement, that song of love that closes the work. Nott managed to perfection his internal narrative based on the repetition of a slow and moving hymn on the string that gives way, after a pious choir, to another somber motif as a representation of doubt. Then the flute and the piccolo appear alone, which decant the balance towards the emotional anthem. And love ends up triumphing, after an imposing climax and a solemn end, but also despite some mischief in the metal and intermittent coughing of the public. Unfortunately, yesterday there was no respite for silence and reflection, as a peculiar "olé!" Just after it unleashed the deserved ovations of the public.
On its Spanish tour, the GMJO alternates this Third Mahleriana with an interesting program that includes Orchestral pieces, op. 6, from Berg, the Rückert-Lieder, from Mahler, The earth, by the Spanish composer Jesús Rueda, and the Symphony No. 15, from Shostakovich that will be heard tomorrow in Pamplona. The tour will continue in Oviedo (next Sunday), Madrid (where both programs will be heard in the Ibermúsica series, on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 12 and 13) and will end in Barcelona with another Third Mahleriana (Thursday 14). In this youth orchestra, founded by Claudio Abbado, in 1986, under the name of Gustav Mahler, as an emblem of European cultural wealth severed after two world wars, there is again a broad Spanish representation, with 26 members and even with inclusion, between the cloister of tutors, the trumpet soloist of the OCNE, Manuel Blanco. But the best news, especially for a day like today, is again the female domain (almost 60%) and, especially, on the string, which is the best of this orchestra and where the first five lecterns of each instrument are covered by girls. Something that will soon cease to be news.