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Mahler Celebration 2011

Mahler like you've never heard him before

NEC to Celebrate Gustav Mahler Centennial September 26--December

Conservatory Will Capitalize on its Unique Strengths in Classical Music, Jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, Historical Scholarship to Create Event of Unusual Musical Diversity

New England Conservatory will celebrate the centennial of Gustav Mahler’s death (May 18, 1911) in a semester-long festival, beginning September 26 and continuing through December, that highlights the composer’s influence—particularly on modern-day music making. Drawing on its special and unique strengths in classical music, jazz, contemporary improvisation, and historical scholarship, the Conservatory plans a series of events that go beyond conventional performances and offer a rare perspective on Mahler. 

The festival kicks off with a performance of the First Symphony in its earliest version (with instrumental parts generated from a microfilm of the manuscript), performed by the NEC Philharmonia and conductor Hugh Wolff (in photo below), Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Director of Orchestras. Preceding the concert will be a presentation by Gilbert Kaplan, founder of the Mahler-centric Kaplan Foundation, amateur conductor (of the Mahler Second Symphony and Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony), indefatigable researcher of all things Mahler-related, and co-editor of the new critical edition of the Second Symphony

Throughout the semester, there will be such unusual performances as the Adagietto of the Fifth Symphony with improvisational tropes, and jazz arrangements of Mahler themes. Included in the celebration will be concerts by the NEC Symphony and Chamber Orchestra; Wind Ensemble; Contemporary Ensemble; and jazz and improvisation performers. Conductors, besides Wolff, include David Loebel, Associate Director of Orchestras; and Charles Peltz, Director of Wind Ensembles. Student musicians will perform side-by-side with faculty, including jazz pianist and MacArthur “Genius” Grant winner Jason Moran.

The brainchild of Dr. Katarina Markovic, a Mahler scholar and Chair of NEC’s Music History and Musicology faculty, the festival is a collaboration of all NEC’s departments. There is no single artistic director, but each department is curating its own offerings in cooperation with the various conservatory ensembles and directors.

“The main theme for our project is diversity of ideas,” said Dr. Markovic. “We should not be fixated purely on a series of concerts of Mahler’s music celebrating the centennial of his death, but on a counterpoint of activities that illustrate the composer’s music and his influence today. Given its great cultural diversity, NEC is ideally placed in terms of creativity and existing programs to create something unique, and not sanctified.“

With events still to be added and details of programming finalized, the following is a preliminary schedule. Still to come are symposia, films, and additional concerts or concert preludes.

Jordan Hall programs
1) NEC Philharmonia, Hugh Wolff conducting
 September 26, 8:00 p.m.
o Mahler Symphony No. 1 in earliest version
o Mahler expert Gilbert Kaplan to deliver hour-long pre-concert presentation on JH stage 6:30-7:30 p.m.
o Other music on the program – Strauss: Don Juan, the tone poem had its premiere in 1889, the same year as the Mahler.

2) First Monday at Jordan Hall
 November 7 and December 5 at 8:00 p.m.
 Programs tba

3) NEC Symphony, David Loebel conducting 
 October 5, 8:00 p.m. Theme: “Life, Death and Redemption”
o Beethoven: Leonore Overture No.2 
o Mahler: Totenfeier. Mahler’s first orchestral work. Completed in 1888, it apparently did not receive a performance in Mahler's lifetime. In its original version, the piece is relatively unknown: it lay dormant after Mahler's death until 1983, and the score was not published until 1988. Mahler reworked it and it became the first movement of the Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection.” It was originally a tone poem inspired by Dziady (Forefathers), a poetic drama by the Polish-Lithuanian poet Adam Mickiewicz, and depicts an ancient Slavic and Lithuanian feast commemorating the dead.
o Berlioz: Three pieces from TheDamnation of Faust
o Tchaikovsky: Francesca da Rimini

4) NEC Wind Ensemble, Charles Peltz conducting
 October 13, 8:00 p.m.
 Mahler: Um Mitternacht

5) NEC Chamber Orchestra, conductorless but coached by Donald Palma
October 19, 8:00 p.m. Theme: “Hearing Mahler through his Contemporaries”
o Robert Fuchs: Serenade No.2 in C Major, Op.14 
Mahler studied Harmony with Fuchs at the Vienna Conservatory, 1875-76.Franz
o Schreker: Intermezzo, Op.8 and Scherzo
Leading opera composer of the time, a student of Fuchs like Mahler
o Joseph Suk: Serenade for String Orchestra, Op.6
 Bohemian composer, Dvorak’s  son-in-law. His “Asrael” Symphony (No.2)  (1905-06) composed after the death of Dvorak and Suk’s wife, Otilie, was admired by Mahler.
o Anton Webern: Langsamer Satz

6) NEC Philharmonia, conducted by Hugh Wolff
 November 2, 8:00 p.m.
o Mahler: Symphony No. 3

7) Liederabend, coordinated by Cameron Stowe
 November 9
Theme: Des Knaben Wunderhorn
o 5:00 p.m. lecture in Jordan Hall by Katarina Markovic
o 6:00 p.m. concert in Jordan Hall preceding NEC Symphony concert

8) NEC Symphony, David Loebel, conducting (in photo right)
November 9, 8:00 p.m. Theme: “Pathways to Heaven”
o Messiaen: L’Ascension
o Mahler: Symphony No.4
   Soprano soloist TBA

9) NEC Contemporary Ensemble, curated/prepared by John Heiss
November 15, 8:00 p.m. Theme: “Mahler’s Disciples or Composers Banned by the Nazi Regime”
Composers to include Schreker, Schoenberg, Berio, Webern, Berg
10)  NEC Chamber Orchestra, conductorless but coached by Donald Palma
November 17, 8:00 p.m. Theme: “Mahler as Arranger”
o Mahler: Suite for Orchestra (after Orchestral Suites of J.S. Bach)
Mahler refers to this arrangement of four movements from Bach's Second and Third Orchestral Suites in a letter from Nov.1909: “I had particular fun recently at a Bach concert for which I wrote out a basso continuo for organ and conducted and improvised-just as they used to-from a spinet with a very big sound which was specially prepared for me by Steinway. Quite surprising things came out of it for me (and the listeners). This buried literature was lit up as if by an arc-light. Its effect (and also tone-coloring) was more powerful than any modern work.” Mahler performed this suite 18 times during his two-year tenure at the NY Philharmonic.
o Schubert: String Quartet No.14, D.810 “Death and the Maiden” (arr. for string orchestra by Mahler)
Arranged for string orchestra by Mahler but never performed. Mahler’s score was found by his daughter, Anna, and was given to David Matthews and Donald Mitchell for preparation. Published in 1984.

11)  Interdepartmental Concert led by Contemporary Improvisation Department (Hankus Netsky, Anthony Coleman, and Ken Schaphorst coordinators)
 November 29, 7:00 p.m.
o Trombone arrangement of Ode to Joy
Symphony No. 5: Adagietto with improvisers and Chamber Orchestra, pianist Jason Moran to perform
o Jazz, possibly featuring Uri Caine and John McNeil
o Wind Ensemble performing excerpts from Schoenberg’s transcription of Das Lied von der erde with jazz/CI and classical vocalists

12)  NEC Symphony, Hugh Wolff conducting
November 30
o 2-5pm,  “Mahler as Interpreter” Symposium (to be held in Pierce Hall)
o 7:30 p.m. Pre-concert jazz: Ken Schaphorst arrangements of four songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn
o 8:00 p.m. NEC Symphony
Nathaniel Stookey: Mahl/er/werk (possible US premiere)
Mahler: Songs TBD
Beethoven: Symphony No.5 (retouched by Mahler)

13) “Mahler the Contemporary” Symposium, 2-5 p.m. Pierce Hall

14)  NEC Philharmonia, David Loebel conducting
December 7, 8:00 p.m. Theme: “1909 and the Future of Symphonic Music”
o Mahler: Adagio from Symphony No.10
o Schoenberg: Five Pieces, Op.16
o R. Strauss: Rosenkavalier Suite

For further information, check the NEC Website or call the NEC Concert Line at 617-585-1122.  NEC’s Jordan Hall, Brown Hall, Williams Hall and the Keller Room are located at 30 Gainsborough St., corner of Huntington Ave. Pierce Hall is located at 241 St. Botolph St. between Gainsborough and Mass Ave.


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world.  Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars.  Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide.  Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions.  On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Collaboration Programs, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors.  Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music and jazz.

NEC presents more than 900 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 106-year old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Public Relations Manager
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115