ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Gustav Mahler’s haunting Symphony No. 7 serves as a bellwether to the turmoil that was about to envelop Europe on the edge of World War I.
The New Mexico Philharmonic will perform this romantic work at Popejoy Hall on Saturday, Feb. 15. In a companion piece, Romanian-born cellist Andrei Ionita will play Edward Elgar’s similarly prophetic Cello Concerto. Ionita was the Gold Medal winner of the 2015 XV Tchaikovsky Competition.
“Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 has, as far as we know, never been performed in New Mexico,” music director Roberto Minczuk said.
“It’s one of the most complex of Mahler’s symphonies,” he said. “Mahler is a composer who took everything to an extreme. He doubled the size of the orchestra. He was the most famous conductor in the world.”
Most orchestras used four French horns; Mahler used eight.
The composer penned his symphony between 1904-05. The end of the 19th century represented the apotheosis of the romantic period. He mysteriously cataloged two of its movements as “Night Music.”
The piece takes advantage of instruments that were unusual in symphony orchestras, such as the guitar and the mandolin.
“His music is a preview of the turbulence that was coming,” Minczuk added. “The world would never be the same.”
Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, was his last notable work, composed in 1919.
“It’s a very emotionally charged piece,” Minczuk said. “The first movement especially is like a lament. Art has that magic of telling us what’s to come. It’s almost like prophesying in the form of music. The anguish of what was to come in Europe is very present.”
Guest cellist Ionita is one of the finest in the world, Minczuk said. “This is one of his few appearances in America.”