Mahler intro

Severance Hall
January 11 – Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
January 12 – Friday at 8:00 p.m.
January 13 – Saturday at 8:00 p.m.

Introducing the Concert

Of Death & Understanding

THIS WEEKEND’S CONCERTS feature a famous last symphony and a brand-new work being given its United States premiere. One is about accepting death — and understanding life. The other was inspired by a story of strong, unsettled, terrifying feelings.

The new work is Stromab by Johannes Maria Staud. Given its world premiere this past September in Copenhagen, it is a co-commission by The Cleveland Orchestra and three institutions including Carnegie Hall (where it will receive its New York premiere in two weeks with The Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst’s direction). Staud is familiar to Severance Hall audiences from his time as the Orchestra’s composer-in-residence a decade ago. In Stromab, which means “downstream” in German, he took inspiration from a popular horror story written a century ago, about a night spent on dunes amidst the flowing waters of the Danube River. Staud’s inspiration was as a starting point, from the story’s sense of apprehension and the unknown.

Following intermission, Franz conducts Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, the last such work that Mahler completed. Superstitious (of many things), Mahler carefully left his manuscript unnumbered while writing this music — finally labelling it as “No. 9” toward the end of his labors. The ruse did not work; like Beethoven, Mahler’s ninth symphony would be his last.

As Franz discusses in his program note about this great work, here Mahler was looking backward at his life, at the joys and sorrows, the pains and hopes. It is filled with emotional (and musical) depth and breadth, from heartache (literally) and anger through triumph and sarcasm to . . . understanding.   The end brings acceptance and even transcendence, beautifully and calmly portrayed in music slowly and naturally withering to silence. “It is a funny thing,” Mahler once wrote, “but when I am making music, all the answers I seek for in life seem to be there, in the music. Or rather, I should say, when I am making music, there are no questions and no need for answers.” —Eric Sellen

 P.S. Mahler visited Cleveland in the flesh on one occasion, in 1910, just months before his death. You can read about that starting on page 45 of the program.