Like the idea of spending a week with Gustav Mahler—without the hassle of building a time machine? Then the School of Music is the place to be from January 6 to 11, when Song of the Earth: A Week with Gustav Mahler gets underway.
It’s often in times of hardship that great works of art are inspired, and that’s certainly the case with late-Romantic Austrian composer, Gustav Mahler. In 1907, he lost his favourite daughter to scarlet fever, was diagnosed with a dangerous heart condition, and gave up his longstanding directorship of the Vienna Court Opera. Then, the following year, Mahler composed Das Lied von der Erde (Song of the Earth), considered by many to be his most significant work.
While a grand performance of Das Lied von der Erde is the main event of the week-long tribute, there will also be open rehearsals, lectures provided by Associate Professor Dániel Péter Biró and President’s Distinguished Scholar Harald Krebs, and an orchestral reading of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 conducted by Ajtony Csaba, as well as “Mahler Re-Imagined”, an open class of Alexandra Pohran Dawkins’ improvisation course during which students will improvise on fragments of Mahler’s work. There will also be a Listening Room featuring broadcasts from the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall archives of performances of some of Mahler’s work, as well as online presentations and interviews by noted Mahler scholars. (All of these events are open to the public.)
Be sure to read this Times Colonist interview with both Pohran-Dawkins and Head of Voice Benjamin Butterfield. “It is a really profound piece of music, very inward looking, without the exuberance of some of his earlier work,” says Pohran-Dawkins in the article. Noting the difficulty of the work, she adds, “It’s a bit of a coup to be able to pull this off.”
The week-long festival culminates with a performance of his profound work, Das Lied von der Erde, on January 11. Originally penned as “A Symphony for Tenor and Alto (or Baritone) Voice and Orchestra,” an ensemble of School of Music faculty, with a few alumni and guests, will treat the audience to a chamber arrangement (begun by Arnold Schoenberg, and completed in the 1980s by the German composer Rainer Riehn) for woodwind quintet, string quintet, keyboards (harmonium, piano and celeste) and percussion.
The concert “highlights our performance faculty and most importantly, the School’s continuing commitment to chamber music, in performance and in instruction,” explains Pohran Dawkins, oboist and producer of the event. “This is a significant event in the life of the School of Music.” Pohran Dawkins is one of a strong number of full-time world-class performance faculty at UVic—the most at any university in the country—which allows this notable to be performed.
“I never thought I would sing [Das Lied von der Erde] in my life, but I feel particularly privileged to have recorded it two summers ago at Yellow Barn Chamber Music Festival in Vermont with my friend Bill Sharp,” says Butterfield. “It therefore seemed logical to push for performing it at UVic.” Butterfield is delighted to sing alongside friend and colleague, baritone Nathanial Watson (Montreal).
Click here for a complete schedule of A Week with Mahler events.
Faculty Chamber Music Series concert Das Lied von der Erde starts at 8pm Saturday, January 11, in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall in UVic’s MacLaurin Building. Tickets are $17.50 & $13.50, available online at the UVic Ticket Centre, by calling 250-721-8480 and at the door.
For those arriving by car, evening parking is $2.50. Click here for current parking info and campus maps.