Time To Face The Music

This Sunday the CBSO and Sir Simon Rattle will perform the last concert in the Birmingham Mahler Cycle, Das Lied von der Erde. This special concert marks the culmination of what, for many, has been an emotional journey through Mahler’s symphonic output.

We’d like to say a big thank you to all those who completed My Mahler cards after the performances or contributed to this site. The following comments left by audience members sum up the breadth and depth of response to the many varied interpretations of Mahler presented during this cycle.

The beginning of the 8th – one of my top 10 musical moments!’

‘Multi-layered, leaving new experiences to be discovered with every new performance’

‘Mahler is so spiritual and understands the humans being and portrays all aspects of life in such a wonderful way’

‘Mahler has been part of my life for 30 years. To hear and watch the CBSO and Andris perform the Mahler 9th was just epic. Can’t wait for more sublime Mahler’

‘I’m delighted…to have discovered Uri Caine’s small scale, fresh, imaginative and cool reading of this eternally fresh composer’s oeuvre. Mahler still grooves for me – forty years on’

‘Absolutely into another world!!’

A selection of My Mahler cards

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Today marks the 100th anniversary of Mahler’s death. At the beginning of 1911 Mahler was diagnosed with bacterial endocarditis, a disease for which the survival rate was almost zero at this time.  His condition rapidly deteriorated and he was forced to abandon his work as conductor of the New York Philharmonic and return to Europe, first to a clinic in Paris and finally to the Low Sanitorium in Vienna. It was here that Mahler died on 18 May 1911.

(c) Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome

For those keen to find out more about Mahler’s final days, Gavin Plumley’s blog, Entartete Musik, provides a detailed summary. The blog celebrates the 150th anniversary of Mahler’s birth and the 100th anniversary of his death and incorporates a wide range of cultural background to Mahler’s life and times. It also includes information about contemporary performances of Mahler’s work.

As part of the Birmingham Mahler Cycle, the CBSO will be performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 tonight, previewed by Gramophone Magazine here. The Symphony, also known as Resurrection, explores Mahler’s beliefs about death and the afterlife – an appropriate theme on the anniversary of his death. Perhaps through performing and listening to his work, we are enabling Mahler’s dream of a transcendent afterlife to come true.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Surprise star takes centre-stage at Mahler 1

Guess who was the star of the show on Saturday night? Preceding the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia’s  performance of Mahler’s First Symphony, this smiley Roman trianglist took centre-stage in Liszt’s 2nd piano concerto.  Taking his place alongside amazing pianist Boris Berezovsky, all eyes were on this unusual pairing. No pressure!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mahler, the Queen and the lost luggage…

Symphony Hall will welcome the Orchestra of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia led by Antonio Pappano on Saturday when they will perform Mahler’s First Symphony.

The orchestra boasts a venerable Mahler tradition and their strong ties with the composer commenced when Mahler came to Rome to conduct the Santa Cecilia Orchestra on two separate visits to the capital in March 1907 and April 1910.  It is particularly noteworthy that he should choose to come to Rome because the composer made few appearances beyond the Austrian Hungarian border and Holland (he never conducted in France and UK).   

(c) Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome

Despite his luggage being lost en route to his first performance in 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”.  At the end of the concert the audience jumped up completely spontaneously to applaud the “visibly moved” Maestro. Though not without its mishaps, the experience had been positive enough for the great conductor to accept a return invitation in 1910.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Postcards from live Mahler concerts at Symphony Hall

Completed My Mahler cards

Completed My Mahler cards

“Words cannot do it justice.”

“My heart was in my mouth most of the evening – feel so uplifted and heavenly! Thank you”

“A feeling in your heart and a tingle down your spine.”

“Mahler’s 3rd – I’d never heard it before, but I wondered afterwards where it had been all my life. Magnificent & breathtaking.”

“Fantastic life enhancing experience.”

“Been waiting years to hear this live, and so pleased it was here in Birmingham. Well done everyone.”

“Mahlers 5th Symphony. Wondrous … Emotionally exhausting – moved me to tears – Andris is mesmerising!”

“Fantastic evening, well done.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Caine’s world

Uri Caine performing at the CBSO Centre in 2007, captured by Birmingham photographer Russ Escritt

Avant-garde jazz pianist contributes to the Mahler Discovery Day with a performance of his acclaimed 1998 album Gustav Mahler – Primal Light at Town Hall on Saturday 5 February, supported by a six piece band, including brass, turntables and cantor.

US  website Jazzloft had this to say: ‘ … a worthy interpreter, adapter and inheritor of Mahler’s legacy who has succeeded in creating a definitive recording that is a confident and original artistic statement full of surprises yet as close to Mahler’s original concept as possible.’

Read the full Jazz Loft article.

Closer to home, one of our favourite jazz critics this side of the Atlantic has written a fantastic preview which might also help to give you an insight into Caine’s world.

Read the full Jazz Breakfast article

Tickets for the concert are available in person from the Town Hall & Symphony Hall Box Office, via telephone on 0121 780 3333 or can be bought online via http://www.thsh.co.uk/view/uri-caine-meets-mahler

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jurowski conducts Mahler 4

How will the LPO measure up to CBSO? Check out tomorrow night’s Mahler 4 at Symphony Hall, conducted by the electric Vladimir Jurowski!

If you are lucky enough to have tickets for the concert, you’ll have a chance to sit in on the pre-concert talk with Lyndon Jenkins and Vladimir Jurowski at 6.15pm.

Look out for the My Mahler board in the Symphony Hall foyer where you can leave your thoughts on the concert and anything else Mahler-related!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New page…

In response to feedback that it was a bit tricky to spot where to leave comments, we’ve added a new page to the site – ‘Your Mahler’, specially for all your ‘My Mahler’ contributions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Mahler – Ali Tomkinson

From the opening notes in rehearsal at the CBSO Centre to overwhelming climax of the final movement, last week’s performances of Mahler’s Third Symphony by the CBSO and Vassily Sinaisky reminded me just what a significant role this work has played in my life but also what an extraordinary, audacious and life-affirming piece of music it is.

I first fell in love with Mahler Three over the course of one winter as I practised and practised for my Grade Eight trombone exam – the huge solo in the first movement is a core part of the repertoire for all young players and I always remember being curled up on the sofa, in front of a fire and the sparkling Christmas tree, listening to Denis Wick and the London Symphony Orchestra over and over again. Despite having performed a wide range of the orchestral repertoire by that stage, I had never fully realised the scale of ambition and vision that the most exceptional composers can achieve – combining magical delicacy with sheer power – and it fired a passion for Mahler that continues to this day.

My first live experience of Mahler Three was also my first ever CBSO concert and my first visit to Symphony Hall. Sitting right at the back of the Grand Tier, I was quite overwhelmed first by the premiere of Tom Ades’ Asyla, the sight of Sir Simon Rattle conducting (in his last season), my teacher Phil Harrison taking on the solo and the incredible beauty and transformation that occurs through the second part of the work. Despite knowing the whole symphony, my focus previously had been very much on the raw, visceral first movement and it was only hearing the work live that I realised how seamlessly Mahler takes you through to its heavenly culmination. He might have abandoned the original titles of the movements that take you from earthly flowers, animals and man through to the voices of angels and the overarching power of love but the sentiment is quite clear in the music and I had tears streaming down my face by the end – an experience I have since repeated at many Mahler performances!

It was also through Mahler Three that, over time, I began to realise just how much Mahler taps into your physical core as much as your emotions. There’s something quite unique about the way that the pace of the music matches your heart rate and my wonderful old boss Keith Nimmo at the Wiltshire Music Centre always said that it was because he wrote so much of the music whilst walking in the hills around his summer houses. I always think you can hear that space and light in the music itself but I never noticed quite how much it affected me physically until I was privileged enough to hear my dearest friend, Katy Jones, perform the trombone solo in an incredible performance by the London Symphony Orchestra and Paavo Järvi in 2006. Not only did Katy’s stunning playing have so much heart and depth but my boyfriend of the time reported that (to his great amusement) my breathing throughout was completely in sync with the music. I was totally lost and sucked into a different world.

For me, it’s quite simply one of those rare works that draws you in, wraps you deep inside the music, gets right under your skin and into your soul, before you emerge blinking at the end having been on a journey that you will never fully understand. Last Wednesday’s performance was exactly that – a glorious showcase of the individual CBSO players (notably Ed Jones and the rest of the brass and woodwind section leaders), the richness of our string sound and the amazing surrounds of Symphony Hall. But what it reminds me most is that sometimes, in life, humans can collectively create something that is beyond our wildest expectations, our sense of who we are and our place in the world, and give us hope in all of our dreams. One-off miracles like the Chilean miners can certainly do that but music has an incredible power to deliver throughout our lives and none more so than the music of Mahler.

Ali Tomkinson, CBSO Director of External Relations

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Mahler – David Gregory

David Gregory, CBSO violinist, talks about his Mahler experiences.  David gives a performer’s perspective of Mahler’s 5th Symphony in the pre-concert talks on 23 and 24 November.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments