Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor Opus 18 (2) Sergei Rachmaninov
Mahler's magnificent Symphony No.6 is the centrepiece of tonight's climax to a week of exclusive concerts.
The Orchestra of the Academy of St. Cecilia boasts a venerable Mahler tradition. Their strong ties with the composer commenced when Mahler went to Rome to conduct the new orchestra on two separate visits in March 1907 and April 1910. Mahler chose to conduct not his own music but music by Wagner, Berlioz and Tchaikovsky including the ‘Pathetique’ symphony, which we heard in last night’s concert.
Despite his luggage being lost on route to Rome, Mahler was determined to continue his concert plans and borrowed a hastily adjusted outfit from the hotel’s proprietor for the first concert, which was given in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Margherita. During the interval, the Queen called the Maestro to her box to compliment him on the performance and charmingly offered her help to find his lost luggage. The national newspaper Il Messeggero noted that 'thanks to the conductor, the orchestra was transformed into an organism full of vigour and perfectly balanced'.
There's more high drama from the same orchestra tonight with Mahler's 6th Symphony, sometimes referred to as the 'Tragic' symphony. Mahler began it during the summer of 1903, one of the most idyllic periods of his life when all was going well in his career and with his family life. Yet in the last movement we hear three hammer blows of fate which maybe could be seen as premonitions of what was to come. In 1907, his four-year old daughter Maria died from diphtheria and smallpox, then the composer was driven out of his job as Music Director of the Vienna State Opera, and he was diagnosed with heart disease.
But at the time he composer the symphony he was serene, wrote his wife Alma. 'He was conscious of the greatness of his work. He was a tree in full leaf and flower. None of his works came as directly from his innermost heart as this one. The music and what it foretold touched us so deeply.”
Continuing the Viennese theme, our final St. Cecilia concert also includes a couple of waltzes, so often performed in Vienna on New Year’s Day.
Lehar: Gold and Silver Waltz
Mahler: Symphony No.6
Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin, Waltz