Mahler’s Eighth Symphony
With unimaginable force, inspiration struck Gustav Mahler in the summer of 1906 when he, instead of resting and recuperating, within the course of a few months wrote the entire monumental work for three choirs, eight solo singers and a large orchestra. His wife Alma said afterwards how the ”Veni, creator spiritus” part in the first movement was composed before Mahler received the lyrics, but even so they were perfectly matched. The two movements in Mahler’s Symphony no. 8 brings together the 9th century hymn with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play ”Faust”, written a thousand years later. It is a pioneering and optimistic piece that sounds, in the composer’s own words, ”as if the whole universe begins to sing”.
It is not often performed, Mahler’s Symphony no. 8 in E-flat major. It has nothing to do with any flaws in its artistic or intellectual quality; on the contrary, the symphony has been praised ever since its première in September 1910. The reason the piece is not performed more frequently is solely because of the enormous cast required for a first-class performance. With some reason, the impresario Emil Gutmann nicknamed the piece ”Symphony of a Thousand”, even though Mahler himself consistently dissociated himself from the it and never sanctioned the use of the undoubtedly punchy subtitle. However, Gutmann’s task was to arouse interest in its first performance and in that regard, the moniker was – and is – very apt.
But Mahler fairly soon regretted involving Gutmann in the preparations; in his correspondence, he described his concern that the impresario would turn the performance into ”a catastrophic Barnum and Bailey show”. He himself had more profound ambitions for his piece and the massive orchestra and choral ensembles required was not for the sake of magnitude per se, but for the realization of his artistic idea: “Imagine the whole universe beginning to ring and resound. There are no longer human voices, but planets and suns revolving.” To fully express this cosmic vision, Mahler went further than had ever been done before.
As early as 1911, Arnold Schönberg, who moreover was inspired by Mahler, broke through this boundary beyond boundaries with his magnificent song-cycle, Gurre-Lieder. But when Mahler wrote his symphony in the summer of 1906, this synthesis of symphony, cantata, motet and romance was ground-breaking, something of which he himself was fully aware. He himself called the piece the greatest he had ever written and that his previous seven symphonies were but preludes to this.
The symphony opens with a triumphant invocation: ”Veni, creator spiritus”, a 9th century hymn, which can also be found in the hymn book of the Church of Sweden as ”Come, Creator Spirit, Lord God”. In the 19th century, the lyrics of the hymn was translated into German by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who argued that its message accorded with his own philosophy. Parallel to the hymn in the second movement of the symphony, Mahler, who was a great admirer of Goethe, has set to music the end of Goethe’s own tragedy ”Faust”, in which the protagonist’s soul is redeemed from the clutches of the devil and ascends to heaven. Mahler wanted to convey that love was the path to man’s redemption, a fairly drastic move away from the pessimism that had characterised his earlier music.
At Berwaldhallen, Mahler’s Symphony no. 8 was performed as recently as in February this year, but prior to that, it had been 12 years. Take the opportunity to savour this grandiose, delirious and and positive piece live – a rarefied and certainly a memorable experience.
The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra serves as a symphony orchestra for the whole of Sweden. Regardless of where you live you can listen to the orchestra’s concerts through the Swedish Radio’s broadcasts or on their website, and several concerts are also shown on Swedish Television. The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is one of the best and most versatile orchestras in Europe – perhaps even in the world. Every year they perform well-loved works from the classical repertoire as well as new music by exciting contemporary composers such as Victoria Borisova-Ollas, Magnus Lindberg and Unsuk Chin. In addition they perform music from popular films and computer and video games and collaborate with leading jazz, pop and rock artists in a constant endeavour to develop and to break new ground.
The Swedish Radio Choir is like a leading mountaineer in the world of music. The choir’s chief conductor Peter Dijkstra has described the ensemble as “the group that leaves base camp first and stakes out the course for others to follow.” Three hundred years of Swedish a cappella tradition, combined with an ambitious and culturally diverse repertoire with some of the world’s finest conductors, has established the Swedish Radio Choir as one of the foremost ensembles of its kind. The 32 professional singers are as equally at home in completely new music by today’s most exciting composers as they are in classic favourites from the rich international treasure trove. Through the Swedish Radio’s broadcasts and website the choir not only reaches concert audiences but also radio listeners everywhere.
The Eric Ericson Chamber Choir was founded in 1945 by the then 27-year-old Eric Ericson and has since been a prominent hub of the Swedish as well as the international music scene. The ensemble’s interest in continually finding new music and new fields of work has given them a very extensive repertoire: from early music to the very latest. For generations of Swedish and international composers, the choir has represented an ideal with its characteristic Nordic sound and skilful virtuosity. The Eric Ericson Chamber Choir is part of the international elite of professional ensembles. Fredrik Malmberg has been their choirmaster since 2013.
The Saint Jacob Chamber Choir regularly performs at church services and concerts in the Saint Jacob Church and in Storkyrkan (Church of St. Nicholas) in Stockholm. The choir’s repertoire comprises a cappella music from a wide range of styles and periods, as well as major works for choir and orchestra. The choir has won several of Europe’s leading choir competitions, amongst them the prominent European Grand Prix, and they regularly participate in major international festivals. The choir represented Sweden at the sixth IFCM world symposium for choral music in Minneapolis in the US, together with Eric Ericson, in order to demonstrate “the Swedish choral miracle”. The choir is led by Gary Graden.
The Adolf Fredrik Church Children’s Choir consists of children from the age of 9-12. The choir has a high level of ambition and sings choral works for single as well as several harmony parts. The choir performs alone or together with a pianist or organist, various musical ensembles or orchestras. The repertoire is focused on the classical choral tradition but also encompasses jazz, traditional songs, folk songs and others. The choir is led by Christoffer Holgersson.
The Chorista Youth Choir consists of young people in secondary or upper secondary school with a passion for singing. The choir performs at church services and concerts at Uppenbarelsekyrkan (the Church of Revelation) in Hägersten, as well as going on concert trips. Their choirmaster is Kerstin Börjeson.
The Adolf Fredrik Church Chamber Choir conists of experienced adult choral singers. The choir performs a classical and newly written a cappella repertoire as well as larger works together with soloists and orchestras. Since 2013, the Chamber Choir has a collaboration with El Sistema Stockholm and is one of the partnership ensembles of the organisation, along with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Swedish Radio Choir, the Royal College of Music among others. Christoffer Holgersson is the artistic director and conductor of the choir.
Soprano Hanna Husáhr hails from Borlänge and studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, at the Academy of Music and Drama in Gothenburg as well as at the Stockholm Opera Studio. In 2009, she made her operatic debut as Leïla in Les pêcheurs de perles. She has also played Adina in L’elisir d’amore, Romilda in Xerxes and Zerlina in Don Giovanni. In addition, Hanna has a broad concert repertoire that spans the entire period from early baroque to newly written music, and she has worked with conductors such as Leif Segerstam, Pinchas Steinberg, Mikko Franck and Herbert Blomstedt. Hanna received the Jussi Björling prize in 2011, the Christina Nilsson scholarship in 2013, the Mozart Prize in the Stenhammar competition in 2016 and the Birgit Nilsson scholarship in 2017.
The American dramatic soprano Lise Lindstrom was born and raised in California. She was introduced to the world of music by her mother who is also a singer, as well as music teacher. After studying at San Francisco State University and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Lise made a spectacular and highly acclaimed debut at the Metropolitan Opera, where she stood in as princess Turandot with less than two hours’ notice. Her other leading roles include Elektra, Salome and Brünnhilde at operas such as the San Diego Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Wiener Staatsoper, the Royal Opera House, Teatro alla Scala, Hamburg Staatsoper and Arena di Verona.
Soprano Ida Falk Winland is a frequent soloist at the Göteborg Opera, where she has sung roles such as Morgana in Alcina, Rosina in The Barber of Seville, Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro and most recently, a much appreciated Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma. She has also performed at Opéra National de Paris as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, at London’s Covent Garden as Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest by Gerald Barry and as Cunégonde in Leonard Bernstein’s Candide at Opéra National de Lorraine. She has made recordings on labels such as Hyperion and Fra Bernardo and has collaborated with such conductors as Esa-Pekka Salonen, Gustavo Dudamel, Valery Gergiev and Marc Minkowski.
Performing Mendelssohn’s Elias with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and receiving the Kathleen Ferrier Award in 2002 were two early high points in the career of Scottish mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill. Since then, she has performed with a number of philharmonic orchestras, including in Boston, Philadelphia, Seoul, Rotterdam, Berlin and London. She has worked with prominent conductors such as Myung-Whun Chung, Bernard Haitink, Robin Ticciati and Valery Gergiev. On the operatic stage, Cargill has appeared as Waltraute in Ragnarök at Deutsche Oper, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly at the English National Opera and as Isabella in L’italiana in Algeri at the Scottish Opera.
Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux had her breakthrough in Belgium in 2000, when she was awarded first prize in the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition. That was the start of an extensive international career during which she performed at venues such as La Scala, the Paris Opera, Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, as well as at festivals in Salzburg and Glyndebourne, amongst others. Lemieux cultivated her career in baroque music and has gradually taken on the 18th century French and Italian opera repertoire as well. She also performs with great symphony orchestras and conductors and gives chamber concerts with a particular preference for the French, Russian and German repertoire.
The New Zeeland tenor Simon O’Neill performs on several of the world’s opera stages. He has sung at Teatro alla Scala, the Metropolitan Opera House, the Royal Opera House, Bayerische Staatsoper and the Salzburg as well as the Bayreuth Festival. He is primarily known for the demanding roles of Parsifal and Lohengrin. Simon O’Neill is currently considered one of the world’s finest heroic tenors with his majestic and dense voice. On Queen Elizabeth’s birthday in 2017, he was appointed Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his contribution to music. Besides Wagner roles, Simon O’Neill’s repertoire includes Othello, Florestan in Fidelio, Cavaradossi in Tosca, and Mao in Nixon in China.
After completing his degree in Biochemistry, English baritone Christopher Maltman had a change of heart and started studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He gained international renown for his performance of the title role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. A role he reprised on screen in the film version made by opera director Kasper Holten. Maltman has started to make a name for himself as a Verdi singer, for example as Posa in Don Carlos, Germont in La traviata and the title role in Simon Boccanegra. He is also a much appreciated romantic singer and early in his career, he won the Lieder Prize at the prestigious competition, Cardiff Singer of the World. He has made highly regarded recordings on labels such as Hyperion, Warner and Chandos.
Bass-baritone Shenyang was born in Tianjin, China, and studied at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. In 2010, he performed the world première of Ye Xiaogang’s Song of Farewell, which was written for him, with the China National Symphony Orchestra. In 2012-13, Shenyang played the title role in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. In North America, he has performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and at the Metropolitan Opera House, he played Masetto in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Garibaldo in Handel’s Rodelinda and Colline in Puccini’s La bohème. In 2010, Shenyang won the Montblanc New Voices at the Stars of the White Nights Festival.
FESTIVAL OFFER (Östersjöklippet)
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