More sectional work, this time the woodwinds. As noted earlier, Mahler wrote for a large woodwind section, about the size that Wagner used for his Ring orchestra. Then writing for this large section is colorful and complex, and there are no secondary parts. Even the third and fourth wind parts have exposed moments—nobdy is just hidden in the harmony the whole time. The PUO woodwinds have obviously figured this out—they were prepared, they concentrated, and it was a fine rehearsal.
Tutti tonight, and we got to the end of the first pass through the grotesque and beautiful 3rd movement, and the first rehearsal of the sublime, searing, radiant adagio finale. If this music does not make Mahler converts out of the uninitiated, then they are not vulnerable to his music, sadly. But its appeal must be extraordinarily universal, surely. Here is the perfect example of Alex Ross’s wonderful perception that Mahler’s symphonies are “love letters to the human race”. In his deep longing to find the divine loving presence underlying the universe, Mahler reveals his own powerful love, and envelops us in tranquility, anguish, and, finally, redemption. A great conductor, Carlo Maria Giulini I think it was, once said that the most deeply moving of all Beethoven’s music contains an urgent subtext: “Can’t you see how much I love you?” And so it is, I believe, with Mahler.
It was a good start tonight, things got better markedly with just repetition. It will take more than one or even two rehearsals for these young musicians to find their way to the right sound, to the way the music breathes, to the core of the meaning. But they will find it. You don’t devote the time and sacrifice necessary to an effort like this unless it’s backed up by plenty of love. And Mahler’s love will find theirs.