This Sunday at 3 p.m. the Brooklyn Symphony is doing Mahler’s “The Song of the Earth.” The venue is St. Anne’s Church on Montague Street, Brooklyn Heights. Stephanie Houtzeel and Matthew Garrett are the alto and tenor soloists.
“Das Lied” is a cycle of six orchestral songs finished in 1909, after the massive Symphony No. 8.
The text is from a book of German translations of ancient Chinese poems. The subjects are drinking, sorrow, nature, and more sorrow. Mahler added the final haunting lines to the long and beautiful finale, “The Farewell”:
The beloved Earth blooms forth everywhere in Spring, and becomes green anew! Everywhere and endlessly blue shines the horizon! Endless… endless…”
Where the word “ewig” (endless) is repeated over and over while the orchestra shimmers off into the distance.
A superstitious kind of guy, Mahler was convinced that after writing a ninth symphony he would die, as did Beethoven, Bruckner and Schubert before him. So after the eighth he decided to write a symphonic-scale work but not call it a Ninth. Of course after this he did go ahead and write a ninth symphony. You can guess what happened.
I’m happy to be in this because this is another one to check off of my lifetime have-to-play list, and because this is the second Mahler work I’ve performed in this month. With this, I’ll have performed in all the symphonies except the 3rd, 5th and 8th (though I’ve rehearsed the 3rd and the 5th).