6 Apr 2018

MAHLER: Symphony No 5 in C sharp minor

From Music Alive, 7:30 pm on 6 April 2018
Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler Photo: Public Domain

"Mahler’s Fourth Symphony is one of the loveliest chamber music-like pieces ever written, while his magnificent Sixth is also one of his most desperate and depressing. His Fifth sits somewhere in-between, but is generally a happy piece. 

The Adagietto, the symphony’s fourth movement, is arguably one of Mahler’s most familiar pieces of music. Written solely for strings and harp, it has an interesting history of interpretation which has changed over the years. While it was written before the First and Second World Wars, for much of the second half of the 20th century it was felt to be an appropriate piece to play 'in memoriam' to those who lost their lives in war or perished in the Holocaust. The Adagietto was even played at the funeral of Robert Kennedy.

But in this century, research has shown that the fourth movement was a love letter to Mahler’s wife Alma, whom he married not long after he began writing it. When we think of it this way it totally changes the mood of the Adagietto. It is like a conversation, which slowly picks up and becomes increasingly passionate before ending very gently. It has nothing to do with loss or the horrors of war. It is beautiful and gorgeous." - Edo de Waart

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edo de Waart.

Recorded 6 April 2018, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington by RNZ Concert.

Producer: David McCaw

Engineer: Graham Kennedy