Mahler's 1st Symphony with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic


Mahler's 1st Symphony with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic

Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Berlin Philharmonic performing Mahler's 1st Symphony, recorded at the Esplenade Concert Hall in Singapore. Plus Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances.


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In November 2010, the Berlin Philharmonic

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and their Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, Sir Simon Rattle,

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performed at the Esplanade Theatre on the waterfront in Singapore

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as part of the orchestra's tour of the Far East.

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Playing to an audience of music students and school children,

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the programme featured Mahler's 1st Symphony and Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances.

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How did you find the audience in Singapore?

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Well, we had a very, very young audience for when we were filming.

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Lots of students, lots of people who had studied the music,

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fantastically concentrated and very, very enthusiastic.

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And some of the highest applause you'll ever hear.

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But it was a great audience.

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There's a big hunger for music there.

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We wanted to take programmes that would show

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all the different colours the orchestra could make.

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You've compared the Mahler Symphony

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with Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances,

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this was the last piece that he composed,

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what does it tell us about his whole life in music?

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Well, it's interesting, because he remained deeply Russian,

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but he was in what, for him, must have been endless exile in America.

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But you really hear the city life in this piece.

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And you here, actually, that he had become

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a more and more sophisticated composer and orchestrator.

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And it's one of the huge showpieces for any orchestra.

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This was the first time in the history of the Berlin Philharmonic

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the piece had been played in concerts.

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Wow.

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And so another journey of discovery.

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APPLAUSE

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And so to perform Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances,

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here is the Berlin Philharmonic with their Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, Sir Simon Rattle.

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APPLAUSE

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The Berlin Philharmonic performing Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances

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to an invited audience of music students

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and schoolchildren here at the Esplanade Theatre in Singapore.

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This was Rachmaninov's last completed orchestral composition,

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first performed when he was 57 years old.

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Twice the age that Mahler was when he wrote his 1st Symphony.

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Every orchestra now plays Mahler, but the Berlin Philharmonic

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seem to have such a particular relationship with the music. Why do you think that is?

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What makes them such a perfect Mahler orchestra?

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Well, of course, look, there's history. One or two orchestras have been lucky.

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We played the first performance of the 3rd Symphony, for instance.

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Some orchestras had a real history with Mahler,

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and you can feel it underneath.

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But, in a way, it's made for an orchestra,

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which is willing to go for extremes.

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And some orchestras are frightened to go to those places in Mahler.

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These guys, not at all.

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If you say to them, "OK, let's drive over the mountain,"

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they will drive over the mountain with great joy.

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-Tell us about Mahler's 1st Symphony.

-Well, there's a composer...

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in his twenties,

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but he'd hardly written for an orchestra before.

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And he turns the symphony on its head.

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I mean, he turned the symphony on its head so much that, actually,

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the first performances, the orchestra would desert him on stage

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because the reaction of the public was so hostile.

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Now, it's hard to imagine.

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It's such a fresh and alive and imaginative piece.

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But it's a piece that takes you on a journey

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that people considered at the time to be almost obscene.

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The idea of having distorted children's songs,

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of Jewish klezmer music, of marching bands,

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it was a real puzzle for people.

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And it's a type of trajectory...

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of a young man's life,

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ending in an extraordinary feeling of liberation and triumph,

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of which there's no irony.

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It was something that Mahler was hardly able to return to.

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Bernstein said he didn't know another composer who had such a keen sense of how to begin things.

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It seems to me that it's also about

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the beginning of something much bigger than just the 1st Symphony.

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Yeah. The beginning of the symphony, it's like all of nature breathing.

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There's an A, which goes from the bottom of the orchestra

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from the top, and it's very, very slowly opening a door into a journey.

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But, of course, it's opening a door to all of his symphonies.

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And the idea that you would have one note

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that leads and leads and leads

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through to the end... through to the end of the piece.

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It's strange. I grew up in the city, in Liverpool,

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where, believe it or not,

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the first Mahler Cycle with all the symphonies

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and the same conductor was played,

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-as I was growing up.

-Wow.

-And I can remember

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the players in the Liverpool Phil saying,

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"Oh, Simon, we're off for our twice-yearly struggle with Mahler."

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But for all of us as young teenagers, it was like a knock on the head.

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It was one of those big farm horses kicking you on the head.

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We would walk out into the night absolutely transfigured.

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APPLAUSE

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Four decades on from Simon Rattle's first encounter with Gustav Mahler's music,

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here he is to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic

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in a performance of Mahler's 1st Symphony.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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A tremendous reaction from the audience

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at the Esplanade Theatre

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to Mahler's 1s Symphony,

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a piece that was vilified during its premiere in 1900.

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The reaction couldn't be more different here in Singapore.

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A true masterpiece performed by one of the world's leading orchestras,

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the Berlin Philharmonic,

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and their Chief Conductor and Artistic Director,

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Sir Simon Rattle.

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APPLAUSE DROWNS SPEECH

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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E-mail [email protected]

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The world famous Berlin Philharmonic, under the baton of their Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Sir Simon Rattle perform Mahler's 1st Symphony.

This concert was recorded in November 2010 at the Esplenade Concert Hall in Singapore, renowned for its state-of-the-art acoustics.

Sir Simon Rattle is considered one of the world's leading Mahler interpreters and this performance is part of a complete cycle of Mahler's symphonies which Sir Simon and the Berlin Philharmonic are undertaking over a period of eighteen months.

Now considered a remarkable achievement for the then 28-year-old composer, Mahler's 1st Symphony was not well received when first performed in Vienna in 1900.

In contrast, the symphony is partnered with Rachmaninov's last completed work, the 'Symphonic Dances'. Written in the summer of 1940, it is regarded by many as a summation of his musical career.


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