03 May 2011

Michael Fuller writes: In the last week we made a huge shift from the dark psychological landscape of the Sixth Symphony to the child-like naiveté of the Fourth. There's such a strong contrast between those two pieces, but what's amazing is that they are both completely Mahler. His voice comes through so clearly in both symphonies, even though the content is worlds apart. I guess that's one of the marks of a great composer, though: the ability to express many different aspects of life, no matter how far apart they may be. Mahler was a master of that, weaving all the craziness and contradictions into a cohesive whole.

Now we turn to the Fifth Symphony, which is maybe his most popular, and arguably his most heroic, work. What I mean by heroic is that it takes us from the 'Sturm und Drang' of the first two movements on an incredible journey to the last movement, which is one of the most jubilant, life-affirming finales in all the repertoire. It's also heroic in the sense that it has some of his most virtuosic writing for the various instruments of the orchestra. Mahler himself was very aware of this, and he said regarding the Fifth, "The individual parts are so difficult that they require players of solo ability. With my thorough knowledge of the orchestra and instruments I couldn't help including some very daring passages and figures."

As I'm writing this, my wife Lulu (who's in the First Violin section) is practicing the Scherzo, and I have to agree, that's a wicked violin part! We basses have our work cut out for us, too. But that's nothing compared to the First Trumpet and French Horn, who have massive solos to contend with.

It's always a great challenge to bring Mahler's Fifth to life. We'll be giving it our all in Warwick on Wednesday, and at the Royal Festival Hall on Thursday night... hope to see you there!