NEC Philharmonia + Hugh Wolff: Mahler, Symphony No. 7

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

The NEC Philharmonia closes its 2023-24 season with a performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 7Hugh Wolff conducts.

This is an in-person event with a public live stream

  1. Gustav Mahler | Symphony No. 7 (1904-06)

    Langsam - Allegro risoluto, ma non troppo
    Nachtmusik I: Allegro moderato - Molto moderato
    Scherzo: Schattenhaft - Fließand aber nicht zu schnell
    Nachtmusik II: Andante amoroso
    Rondo - Finale

    Program note

      The last of three purely instrumental symphonies Gustav Mahler wrote between 1901  and 1905, the Seventh Symphony is perhaps the least performed and most misunderstood. Mahler composed it inside out, writing two inner Andante movements he called Nachtmusik (night-music or nocturnes) in the summer of 1904. The following summer he struggled to integrate these two movements into a larger structure. A scherzo labeled Schattenhaft (shadowy or spectral) found its way to the center of a symmetrical structure; the giant bookends of the first movement and finale were composed last.
           The first movement was particularly problematic for Mahler.  Devoid of inspiration, he took long solo hikes through the Dolomite mountains and boat rides on Alpine lakes. The lapping of water and the gentle rhythm of the oars caught his attention, and the pulsating
    pianissimo of the symphony’s opening was born. 
    This ostinato is interrupted by the anguished plea of a “tenor horn,” played today on a euphonium. The jagged dotted rhythms become the foundation of a dark and militant march, mixed with wild dances and gentler yearnings. The elaborate canvas —it is the longest of the five movements—is in sonata form with a slow introduction. The intensity and complexity of the introduction and exposition are offset by a more lyrical development section that culminates in an ecstatic passage, cut off abruptly by the return of the hushed introduction and the tenor horn, now in dialogue with the bass trombone.
           The second movement, the first of the two
    Nachtmusik, is another march—a walk in the night. Mahler called it a “patrol.” Birdcalls and off-stage cowbells put nature at its center. The music oscillates uneasily between major and minor, full of ambiguity and chiaroscuro. A lyrical cello melody provides contrast, as does a mournful, Klezmer-style duet for oboes, later joined by two cellos.
           The macabre
    scherzo, the shortest movement, is ghostly, wind-whipped night music, a witches’ Sabbath of parody and grotesquerie.
           The second
    Nachtmusik is a serenade—perhaps an earnest young lover wooing his beloved. The large orchestra is reduced to a more intimate ensemble. Brass and percussion—except for two horns—are silent, while guitar and mandolin, two instruments associated with serenading, are added.
           The sweet romance of this movement—welcome after the darker first three movements—opens the door to a finale Mahler called “bright day.” This is the most radical music Mahler had ever composed. Titled Rondo-Finale, it is an exuberant amalgam of tempi, motifs, styles, and colors—marches, minuets, and waltzes— jump-cutting from one to the next without apparent logic or preparation. It can be considered a giant mosaic, each tile juxtaposed against something completely different. The similarity with the quasi-mosaic style of Gustav Klimt and the Vienna Secession movement—visual artists with whom Mahler had strong ties—is striking. As an emotional journey, it is more like a carnival: lots of dancing, shouting, eating, arguing, and embracing (maybe some jugglers and a magician?). There’s wild excess everywhere, and, above all, the sheer joy and utter messiness of being human on our fragile, fertile planet.                                                                                   

    – Hugh Wolff



    NEC Philharmonia

    First Violin
    Hyun Ji Lee
    Mitsuru Yonezaki
    Rachel Yi
    Tsubasa Muramatsu
    SooBeen Lee
    Anatol Toth
    Min-Han Hanks Tsai
    Jisoo Kim
    Nathan do Amaral Oliveira
    Passacaglia Mason
    Chloe Hong
    Darwin Chang
    Sarah McGuire
    Rachel Wang
    Jusun Kim

    Second Violin
    Ching Shan Helen Yu
    Michael Fisher
    Thompson Wang
    Byeol Claire Kim
    Arun Asthagiri
    Felicitas Schiffner
    Cameron Alan-Lee
    Wangrui Xu
    Cherin Lee
    Célina Bethoux
    Anna Lee
    Hila Dahari

    Sachin Shukla
    Aidan Garrison
    Nicolette Sullivan-Cozza
    Hyelim Kong
    Nathan Emans
    Inácia Afonso
    Man To Kwong
    Jowen Hsu
    Daeun Hong
    Bram Fisher

    Claire Deokyong Kim
    GaYeon Jenny Kim
    Hayoung Moon
    Andrew Byun
    Annie SeEun Hyung
    Jonah Kernis
    Joanne Hwang
    Xinyue Zhu
    Bennet Huang

    Shannon Ross
    Andres Sanchez
    Lillian Yim

    Misha Bjerken

    Shion Kim
    Colby Heimburger
    Gregory Padilla

    Yu-Cih Chang
    Yihan Wu
    Cailin Singleton

    Clay Hancock

    Dermot Gleeson

    Anne Chao
    Chia-Fen Chang
    Jeong Won Choe
    Subee Kim

    Shengyu Cui
    Subee Kim

    Gwendolyn Goble
    Donovan Bown
    Dane Bennett

    English horn
    Alexander Lenser

    Phoebe Kuan
    Cole Turkel
    Xianyi Ji

    E-flat Clarinet
    Yi-Ting Ma

    Bass Clarinet
    Chasity Thompson

    Evan Judson
    Zoe Beck
    Garrett Comrie

    Matthew Heldt

    French horn
    Graham Lovely
    Willow Otten
    Noah Silverman
    Grace Clarke
    Jihao Li, asst.

    Daniel Barak
    Eddy Lanois
    Reynolds Martin
    Nelson Martinez, asst.

    Eli Canales
    Quinn McGillis    

    Bass Trombone
    Roger Dahlin

    Tenor horn
    Jaehan Kim

    James Curto  

    Connor Willits

    Jeff Sagurton
    Michael Rogers
    Ross Jarrell
    Eli Reisz
    Halle Hayoung Song

    Shaylen Joos
    Yoonsu Cha