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|North Carolina Symphony’s Anniversary Performance of Mahler’s Ninth Headlines Final Composer Portraits Concert; A Grant Llewellyn Master Class for Mahler’s Masterpiece, May 12-14|
|Posted: April 26, 2011|
The concerts begin in Memorial Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Thursday, May 12. Weekend performances follow at Meymandi Concert Hall in downtown Raleigh’s Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts on Friday and Saturday, May 13-14. All three concerts begin at 8:00 p.m.
“There is probably no other single composer for symphony orchestras who has so stretched the medium, and never more so than in the Ninth Symphony,” says Llewellyn. “We picked Mahler for our Composer Portrait because there couldn’t be a closer relationship with a piece and a composer in his last days: the Ninth Symphony was his farewell to the world.”
The program, the fourth and final entry in the Symphony’s celebrated Composer Portraits series, commemorates almost to the day the 100th year since the great composer’s death. Llewellyn opens the performance with a personal, on-stage exploration of Mahler’s style and impact as a visionary composer, before the orchestra performs the complete, show-stopping Ninth.
Written between 1908 and 1910, the Ninth Symphony is one of the most fabled pieces in the canon, as much for the circumstances surrounding its composition as the vivid poignancy of its music. The superstitious Mahler was always wary of composing a ninth symphony, feeling it signaled the end of a composer’s life; Beethoven, Schubert, Bruckner and Dvorák had all died before beginning a tenth symphony. Mahler himself was coping with the triple misfortune of his forced resignation from the Vienna Opera, the death of his beloved daughter Maria and the diagnosis of a terminal heart condition, all in 1907.
These circumstances inspired him to put on paper one of the greatest and most captivating realizations of emotion in any art form. “The music [of the Ninth Symphony] grew to be a tragically moving and noble epitome of the farewell feeling,” wrote Mahler’s protégé Bruno Walter. “A unique soaring between farewell sadness and a vision of Heavenly light, it lifts the Symphony into an atmosphere of celestial bliss.”
Years later, the legendary American conductor Leonard Bernstein added that the Ninth is “the very closest we have ever come, in any work of art, to experiencing the very act of dying, of giving it all up…But in letting go, we have gained everything.”
These performances complete the Symphony’s 2010/11 Composer Portraits series, which included the Symphony’s December collaboration with PlayMakers Repertory Company and March tribute to John Adams. The News and Observer labeled those respective concerts “one of the most inventive and successful [programs] in many a season” and “one of [the N.C. Symphony’s] most creative and informative concerts…The orchestra reconfirmed its supremacy in contemporary fare.”
Specifically designed to bring audience members closer to the music, the Composer Portraits concerts include several special opportunities to learn more about the Symphony’s featured composers and their influence.
Grant Llewellyn first offers an even more intimate analysis of the composer, as well as an inside look at how a conductor prepares for so daunting a challenge, with the talk “A Portrait of Gustav Mahler: The Man. The Music. The Ninth.” Held at Quail Ridge Books & Music, 3522 Wade Avenue, in Raleigh, on Wednesday, May 11, at 7:30 p.m., the talk is free and open to the public.
A pre-concert discussion will also be held with Dr. Letitia Glozer in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Gerrard Hall on Thursday, May 12, at 7:10 p.m. and with Dr. Tom Koch in the lobby of Meymandi Concert Hall on Friday, May 13, at 7:00 p.m. Audience members can also meet the creative minds behind the concert at Meet the Artist, hosted by WUNC’s Catherine Brand, in the lobby of Meymandi Concert Hall on Saturday, May 14, at 6:30 p.m.
The limited edition Composer Portraits book is also available, featuring a special look at Mahler’s life and influence, including an essay on Mahler’s legacy by Llewellyn. Visit the Symphony’s “Explore the Score” page (www.ncsymphony.org/explorethescore) for more.
Regular tickets to the Duke Medicine Classical Series Raleigh performances of “Composer Portraits: Mahler” on Friday and Saturday, May 13-14, range from $30 to $60, with $30 tickets for seniors and $10 tickets for students. Meymandi Concert Hall is located in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., in Raleigh.
Regular tickets to the Duke Medicine Classical Series Chapel Hill performance on Thursday, May 12, range from $30 to $45, with $30 tickets for seniors and $10 tickets for students. Memorial Hall is located on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on E. Cameron Ave.
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