Dayton, Ohio (February 12, 2009) – On Friday, February 27 and Saturday, February 28 at 8 pm in the Schuster Center, Music Director Neal Gittleman and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra will present Masterful Mahler, a musical program featuring a single work, Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 in D major, the Dayton debut of this seminal 20th-century composition.
The Symphony No. 9 was the fruit of “late Romantic music’s ultimate big thinker,” Gustav Mahler. Mahler marked the “powerful and devastating” first movement Andante comodo, or moving, a good description of the work’s emotional effect. A leisurely Ländler follows, then a very fast and defiant Scherzo-like movement precedes the very slow, yet still restrained big and tragic climax that ends with a whisper, exacting the very best professional musicianship from each orchestra member.
“The length and the magnitude of the music is cool,” DPO Principal Percussionist Michael LaMattina states.” The last movement is so long and slow that it literally sounds like the composer is dying, which I think was his intent.” DPO Principal Violinist/Concertmaster Jessica Hung has a different take on the work’s final movement. “This movement is very much about mortality, yet I don’t see the downward shift in key as defeated, but rather as an incredible release of all the tension and suffering of life and an affirmation of a deeper and more eternal part of the soul.” DPO Principal Clarinetist John Kurokawa thinks Mahler’s 9th Symphony is an amazing piece, “not only for its sheer emotional intensity, but for its epic scale – it is not a piece that one gets to hear often and no one should miss!”
The work presents particular challenges to musicians that most other works do not. “Mahler calls for three very low-pitched chimes in the first movement, all specific pitches though,” LaMattina notes. “If they are played in the correct range that he writes for, each tube will be in excess of 10 ft. tall. We are working with the stage crew to devise a method of hanging the chimes from a baffle. I’ll have to get on a ladder or platform to play them.” Hung agrees about the challenges. “Mahler has us (violinists) climbing all over the fingerboard, and dramatic leaps are something of a signature. The part requires lots of mental and physical stamina – many notes are to be sustained at high intensity and volume, requiring ample changes of bow. However, there are plenty of soft passages, so delicacy is just as important.” DPO Principal Oboist Eileen Whalen feels that Mahler is exciting to play “because of the emotional extremes. He shifts one from one end of the spectrum to the other so quickly. Also, when playing Mahler one often has to play “bells up,” a technique that Mahler uses that changes the sound of the instrument by pointing the bell up as far one can and still read the music! Often times I memorize those passages, as it is just too difficult to read the music in that position.”
This concert is the Dayton debut of this work. “It will be the first time that I will be playing it,” LaMattina remarks. After this, I’ll have played all the Mahler symphonies except the eighth.” In her debut season as well, Hung is incredibly excited to be part of the Dayton debut of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. “This symphony is certainly a highlight of the season for me,” she remarks, “because it’s simply a unique experience both to play and to listen to, and I very much hope that each person in our audience will find a moment when we are able to touch or connect with them in some way, be it sentimental, funny, eerie, grotesque, passionate…there’s an emotion for everyone in Mahler 9.” Kurokawa echoes their sentiment. “I am very excited we are performing this great work in the Schuster Center with its excellent acoustics and also for Dayton audiences to be able to experience what is, in my opinion, one of Mahler’s greatest symphonies.”
On both concert evenings at 7 pm in the Mead Theatre, Dr. Christopher Chaffee, Professor of Music, Wright State University and a DPO Program Annotator, will conduct a Take Note discussion.
Tickets $12 – $62.
The Friday evening concert is the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s Education Underwriters Recognition Concert. The Dayton Philharmonic Volunteer Association is the sponsor of the Saturday evening concert.
For photographs of Neal Gittleman or any of the various series’ guest artists, go to: