Over the weekend, we spoke with Clara Wang, who gave us some of her thoughts on Mahler 1 with YPO. Clara is from Cambridge, MA and joins YPO as harpist for a third year.
What is your favorite aspect of playing Mahler 1?
“I really enjoy the how music has the ability to invoke emotions and paint such clear pictures in your head. I especially like the klezmer music in the third movement and the entire second movement, since they both make you want to sway with the music.”
How has Maestro Loebel guided the orchestra through the process of learning the symphony?
“Whenever Maestro Loebel wants us to phrase in a certain manner, he has a way of describing the music that makes phrasing easy. Also, he’s always excited for rehearsals and is such a nice and supportive person. Over the past few years that I’ve been in YPO, I think he’s really been able to connect with both the orchestra and its members.”
What is the biggest challenge that you face as a performer of this piece?
“I actually think that the physical location of the harps is the biggest challenge. Since there are so many loud sections, being sandwiched in between the horns and the percussion can be quite the auditory experience. All that aside, though, I think playing together with other the other musicians and creating a cohesive sound and story is always a challenge to be tackled.”
We had a chance to speak with YPO Violinist, Elizabeth Davidson-Blythe, on the topic of next week’s YPO concert. Elizabeth is from Beverly, MA and has been playing violin for nine years. Here’s what she had to say:
“I love the level of detail that Mahler puts into his work. I suppose that this isn’t specific to Mahler 1, but it’s certainly been my favorite part of the learning process so far this semester. Mahler was what Mr. Loebel calls a “control freak.” He wrote down everything that he wanted to be in the piece. There is a different dynamic marking for almost every bar of music, and he never fails to put in markings for expression as well. This level of precision and detail is rarely seen in orchestral music and has been a joy to explore.
Mr. Loebel has done a fabulous job conducting YPO through Mahler 1 this semester (although I don’t think there’s ever been a time when he hasn’t been fantastic). He takes every one of Mahler’s markings very seriously and conducts us through the piece with meticulous care. On the first rehearsal he handed out packets with the translations of all of Mahler’s markings (which are in German), so that we could understand what we were being asked to play.
For me, the biggest challenge has certainly been the stamina factor. It’s a massive piece both in the time it takes to play and the level of energy that is required to play it. We had our first run through last week, where we all found out just how tiring playing this piece is. It isn’t common that you have to be thinking about conserving energy in the first or second movements of a piece. However, the last movement is the longest and requires the most energy, so you have to make sure you can get there without wearing yourself out.
Overall, this has probably been my favorite semester of YPO, and I am very much looking forward to sharing everything we’ve learned and worked on with an audience on the 20th!”
In anticipation of next week’s YPO concert, NEC Prep had a chance to speak with Maestro Loebel on the topic of Mahler Symphony no. 1:
How is Mahler’s Symphony no. 1 (1889) different from other works of that time?
“It’s interesting to contrast Mahler’s First Symphony with Brahms’ Fourth which YPO performed this past June. The symphonies were written only a few years apart, but they’re so different from each other. Brahms’ austere orchestration and tight construction make his music sound disciplined and self-contained; Mahler’s music, with its huge orchestration and over-the-top emotion, is anything but.”
How has the treatment of Mahler’s music evolved throughout your lifetime?
“When I was the age of YPO’s musicians, any performance of a Mahler symphony was a special occasion and even fine professional orchestras found some of his music tough going. Nowadays, Mahler is one of our most frequently performed composers; here in Boston, hardly a month goes by without a performance somewhere of a Mahler symphony. It’s especially wonderful to see how the skills of our young musicians have advanced so far that college and high school orchestras (like YPO) can play Mahler with the technical assurance his music requires.”
What difficulties does an orchestra face when they perform something like Mahler 1?
“The biggest challenge for any orchestra that plays Mahler is physical endurance. I’ve always thought that teenagers had unlimited energy but, in fact, the members of YPO have had to learn during our rehearsals how to pace themselves over the course of a demanding 50 minute symphony. As always, their youthful enthusiasm is an inspiration and it’s a real privilege for me to help them discover such great music from the inside out.”
My nuevo álbum de piano solista “Sounds Blooming” ya está disponible vía formato digital de iTunes. La grabación fue producida en los estudios de la WGBH en Boston y contiene una colección de obras modernistas e introspectivas de John Cage, Claude Debussy, Gustav Mahler, entre otros.