On Saturday, May 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the Helena Civic Center, the Helena Symphony Orchestra & Chorale concludes its multi-year Mahler Cycle with a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8. Mahler proclaimed that composers sometimes “have to make a big noise to be understood by many,” and while the premiere performance in 1910 was subtitled a Symphony of a Thousand because it included over a thousand performers, Mahler did not prefer the title. Typically the work is performed with 300-500 performers.
The 80-member Helena Symphony Orchestra, one of Montana’s professional orchestras, will have additional musicians for Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, totaling over 100 players. The 95-voice Helena Symphony Chorale will be joined by the 100-voice Choral Arts Society of Utah, the 85-voice Camerata Singers (Pocatello, Idaho), and the 40-voice Salt Lake Children’s Choir. The performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony includes sopranos Diana McVey, Kristin Vogel, Heather Barnes; mezzo soprano Kimberly Gratland James; contralto Rebekah Ambrosini; tenor Kirk Dougherty; baritone Constantinos Yiannoudes; and bass Douglas Nagel. In addition to the opera and concert credits of the soloists, several of them have performed Mahler’s Eighth before.
“There are few opportunities to see and hear this work performed,” explains President Kathy Bramer. “If there was ever a time not to miss a performance – this is it. Our multi-year Mahler cycle has been part of the artistic vision for the past seven seasons, and it all concludes on May 12.” This performance marks the climatic conclusion to the seven year cycle after performing all of the symphonies by Gustav Mahler. The Helena Symphony is one of a few orchestras in the world to achieve such a massive undertaking.
While the Eighth Symphony did not premiere until four years after Mahler began the work, it was actually the first work that actually brought him a true triumphant success as a composer. It was also the last premiere performance of his own works that he would ever conduct as he died in 1911, eight months after the premiere. It was the culmination of an era. Not only was it the pinnacle of Mahler’s outward expressions, but it was the ultimate fulfillment of nearly two centuries of music: combining the foundations of Bach, explorations of Mozart and Haydn, the passionate ideals of Beethoven, the craftsmanship of Brahms, and the drama of Wagner.
“Mahler used his symphonic works to find answers to the human dilemma,” says Maestro Scott. “Mahler’s music typically explores the conflict between life and death, joy and despair, fulfillment and emptiness. He occasionally offers potential solutions in the form of hope, but with the Eighth Symphony he gives us the most satisfying answer yet – it is very simple, really. The work has no angst, conflict, or dark moments. In the end it is about divine enlightenment and human love. Mahler poured all his love for life, for humanity, and for the miracle of creativity itself into this work.”
Beginning with Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony in 2005 as part of the Helena Symphony’s 50th Anniversary, the Helena Symphony Orchestra (& Chorale) performed one to two works by Mahler every year since then. Noted for his performances of Mahler’s music, Music Director Allan R. Scott champions the works of Mahler and has garnered national attention, specifically by SYMPHONY Magazine. The Symphony’s Mahler cycle has captured additional attention throughout the country, including Alex Ross, the music critic of The New Yorker magazine. In addition, a documentary film is capturing the culmination of the Symphony’s multi-year Mahler project and is expected to be released by 2013 on public television. Watch for more in depth stories about the internationally-noted guest artists, the details about Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, and the logistics of producing the largest work ever written.
Tickets for Mahler’s Eighth Symphony featuring over 430 performers are available through the Helena Symphony box office at 48 Hibbard Way (10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday-Friday), or by calling 406.442.1860, or on line at helenasymphony.org.
Maestro Scott and soloists are available for interviews. For more information, please contact the Helena Symphony at 406.442.1860 or [email protected]