MFive Intro

Severance Hall
September 26 – Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

September 28 – Saturday at 8:00 p.m.


Mahler:  Living Life & Love

This week’s concerts feature two works written a century apart — a big symphony filled with conflict and joy, together with a very modern work woven against ideas of remembering and the concept of home.

The evening begins with a work premiered in 2015, by Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth.  Written on a commission originally related to the 100th anniversary of Gustav Mahler’s death, Neuwirth took inspiration for it from a night she dreamed of a grandfather she never knew giving her a message.  It’s title, Masaot/Clocks Without Hands, clearly signals the piece’s intended exploration of time and travel.  (Masa’ot is the plural of a Hebrew word for journey.)  Here, Neuwirth weaves together many threads in a commentary and search for origins, belonging, family, and home.

Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is intangible.  By the time of its premiere in 1905, he believed that his music must be heard on its own, without explanation.  Early on, when just beginning the Fifth, he wrote to a friend that this music has “nothing romantic or mystical about it; it is simply an expression of incredible energy.”   

From Franz Welser-Möst’s viewpoint, one way to think about this symphony is as an “inverse” of life.  In this, the movements touch on life’s stages in reverse order:  1. funeral — 2. pain and regret — 3. a life in full swing — 4. falling in love — 5. the playfulness and carefree joy of childhood.

Many differing views about this symphony have been voiced across the years, yet everyone is moved by its incredible mixture of music that is in turn powerful, tender, chaotic, exuberant, uncertain, and dramatic.  In other words, the Fifth is about life and living.

Eric Sellen

Mahler 5 


PART ONE   (25 minutes)

1.  Funeral March
C-sharp minor = funeral march
Filled with anguish and wailing, mourning the loss of a life gone.

2.  Stormily
A minor = confusion and grief
The anguish continues, igniting uncertainty, hope, and despair.

PART TWO  (20 minutes)

3.  Scherzo
D major = acceptance and success
An animated dance, sorting through life’s pleasures, filled with sarcasm and humor, conflict and joy.

PART THREE  (25 minutes)

4.  Adagio
F major = a poetic view of life
A gentle acknowledgement of life’s everyday joys and companionship.

5.  Rondo-Finale
D major = jubilant affirmation
Celebrating life’s potential.