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Alondra Conducts Mahler 3 - Queensland Symphony Orchestra

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by John Andrew (subscribe)
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The world and everything

"We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Excerpt of The Little Gidding by T. S. Eliot


"A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything.

Gustav Mahler

Something as all-encompassing and as massive as Mahler's Third Symphony reminds me of a comparison between Bernard Shaw and Shakespeare – " Shaw's works introduce us to an extraordinary mind, Shakespeare's to a world".

Thank goodness for the extremely helpful program notes by Matthew Hodge and Celia Casey, who take us through the six movements of Mahler's Third, and guide us within the world he is creating.

The first movement is powerful and passionate, evoking a battle between elemental forces – possibly in the first instance between winter and summer, but more archetypal than that – darkness and light, good and evil, peace and war.

For over thirty minutes the music ranges through the strident, the bombastic, the heroic to the subdued funeral march with its single tenor trombone, and soft insistent drum beats to the massive joyous celebration of summer warmth – and possibly an albeit fleeting triumph of love and good.

Small wonder that most of the audience decided to fore-go protocol, and burst into applause.

The second movement, celebrating flowers in the meadow, featuring flutes and strings, allows us to resonate with simple transient beauty, and dance along with the music.

Next, Mahler introduces humankind and animals in an elysian mix – with a gentle insistent cuckoo, and a more mischievous raw-edged treatment, again with a teasing trehorn horn.

Then comes night, and voices, as Mezzo Soprano Lilli Paasikivi sings "from a deep sleep have I awoken.. deep is its pain. Joy – deeper still than heartache.. seeks eternity… deep, deep eternity."

Close to a hundred voices join in acknowledgement of the pain of being human and the joy of love and forgiveness as experienced by Peter and the disciples.

All has been building towards, as Celia Casey puts it, "a colossal coda which represents the overwhelming power of love.. tender and majestic.. and absolutely unforgettable".

After the concert, an elderly gentleman said to me "This may well have been the single best concert of my life-time". And it received one of the longest standing ovations that this aged reviewer has experienced.

Just about all of the superlatives apply, for the Mahler, the orchestra, the choirs, the conductor. Sometimes there are experiences in music that defy words, and communicate at a deep visceral level.

Alondra de la Parra's Mahler did just that.

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Why? A unique opportunity
When: 24th November
Where: QPAC Concert Hall
Cost: $79 - $117
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