Geneva Anderson digs into art

Magnificent Mahler–MTT and the San Francisco Symphony warm up at Davies for their Euro tour, series ends this weekend with Mahler’s No. 6

MTT--Michael Tilson Thomas-- and the San Francisco Symphony celebrate Mahler in performances of the 9th, 2nd and 6th Symphonies May 5-14, 2011. Photo: courtesy Michael Tilson Thomas

For all those lucky enough to nab tickets to Sunday’s sold-out performance of MTT leading SFS in Mahler’s No. 2, Resurrection, the performance did all the talking necessary.  No one knows how or why sometimes magic happens…but Sunday it all came together—orchestra, chorus, soloists (Karina Gauvin soprano and Jill Grove mezzo-soprano —I closed my eyes and floated in glory…aware of the distinctive sound coming from each and every section of the orchestra and singers and the wonderment of their combined flair and flow.  The SFS Chorus under Ragnar Bohlin’s direction though deserves special mention…its impressive entrance in the final (5th) movement was awesome–pure theatre–as its 140 members sang unaccompanied “Aufersteh’n” (“Rise again”) ushering in the resurrection theme and climax which soprano, mezzo soprano and full orchestra joined to bring the piece to end.   Something so near perfect raises the bar, even for MTT.  Now that he’s headed off with SFS and soprano Laura Claycomb and mezzo-soprano Katarina Karnéus for the big European tour (15 concerts in Prague, Vienna, Brussels, Luxemburg, Essen, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon), commemorating the 100th anniversary of Mahler’s death, it’s nice to know that we here at home got the smetana (that’s Czech for cream). 

There’s still time to grab tickets for MTT conducting SFS in Mahler’s 6th Symphony in A minor this coming Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at Davies Symphony Hall.  This is the third and final set of performances in the splendid Mahler series that has run at Davies since May 5, 2011.   Composed in 1903-04, Mahler’s No. 6–a passionate, relentlessly tragic and terrifying masterwork–culminates with “three blows of fate” sounded by a hammer in the last (4th) movement.  This is the very symphony that launched SFS’s recording cycle in 2001.  And, now ten years later, SFS has just finished the final recording of its complete Mahler cycle on its own label, SFS Media, including all nine of the Mahler’s symphonies, the Adagio from Symphony No. 10, and Mahler’s works for voice, chorus and orchestra.  The cycle has won seven Grammy® Awards, including three for Best Classical Album.  But, as Sunday’s unforgettable concert proved, nothing beats the excitement of experiencing music live.   Mahler’s No. 6 is replete with sudden juxtapositions of contrasting mood and tempo.  It opens with a grim march and is later filled with the sound of cowbells, harps and a portrait of Alma, Mahler’s wife.  I can’t wait.

And if find yourself in Vienna’s regal Konzerthaus on May 21-25, Tilson Thomas and the orchestra will perform Symphonies Nos. 2, 6, and 9 as part of the city’s Mahler commemoration, occurring just days from the 100th anniversary of Mahler’s death.

Michael Tilson Thomas, conducts San Francisco Symphony Mahler/Symphony No. 6 in A minor

Thursday, May 12 at 8 p.m.

Friday, May 13 at 8 p.m.

Saturday, May 14 at 8 p.m.

PRE-CONCERT TALK: Peter Grunberg will give an “Inside Music” talk from the stage one hour prior to each concert. Free to all concert ticket holders; doors open 15 minutes before.

AUDIO PROGRAM NOTES: A free audio podcast about Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 will be downloadable from and from the iTunes store.

BROADCAST: Portions of these concerts will be broadcast on Classical KDFC 89.9/90.3 FM on Tuesday, May 24 at 8:00 p.m.

TICKETS: $15-$140; available at, or by phone  (415) 864-6000, and at the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office, on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street in San Francisco.  Performance: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco

May 10, 2011 - Posted by | Symphony | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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