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New York, New York
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A New York harpist trying to figure things out - and the mishaps and adventures that inevitably ensue.

I was so tired this week, but MAHLER

Kathryn Sloat

I was so tired this week that on Friday I almost fell asleep at work, totally forgot that my lesson that afternoon had been cancelled (thank god, or I would have fallen asleep during that, too), and realized too late that the New York Phil’s Friday concert was at 11 o'clock in the morning, not 8 o'clock at night. 

Thankfully there was another performance on Saturday night and I recovered sufficiently to get myself to Lincoln Center.  Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 was on the program, and if you know me, you know that I can’t resist a good Mahler symphony (I mean, is there any other kind??). 

The first piece on the program was Unsuk Chin’s new work, a Clarinet Concerto. Although I suppose this kind of new music isn’t for everyone, I kind of liked it. It was weird - by turns bizarre and ethereally beautiful. The solo clarinet employed lots of strange sounds, such as multiphonics. The second movement, titled “Hymnos” was especially haunting. I sometimes felt like I was listening to music from Mars. The clarinetist was really fun to watch - he really got into the music, bobbing his head and moving around. It almost looked like he was dancing. There was harp in the piece, too - mostly sharp, accented single notes or chords, though we got a few good, short, percussive glissandos* in the last movement!

And then we got Mahler 1. I hadn’t heard this piece in awhile, and I was really looking forward to it. Mahler’s first symphony has a special place in my heart, since it was the very last piece that I ever played with my college orchestra. 

Like I said, it’s been a few years since I heard the piece, but it came back to me immediately. Of course it’s impossible to forget the iconic Frere Jacques of the third movement, but I remembered quite a bit of the other movements too. I had to keep reminding myself not to hum along, but I sometimes couldn’t keep from tapping my toes and bopping my head (Yeah, I’m weird. Oh well.). 

I’ve always liked how Mahler uses the harp - it’s not flashy, just very effective. He especially makes good use of the lower register, which is usually tough to make audible above the rest of the orchestra. He seems to have cared less about making the harp heard OVER the orchestra, but rather, making it come through as an important part of the texture. His parts usually look simple enough on the page, but sometimes turn out to be deceptively difficult. 

The New York Phil delivered a great performance of one of my favorite symphonies - the applause that exploded with the very last note was well deserved. 

Awesome first night back at the Phil! This year’s New York City concert season in general is going to be a really great one for Mahler. Although I can’t get to all of them, here is the run down, as far as I know it:

Sunday, October 12th at 3pm - Mahler 9, with the Met Orchestra

Friday, October 31st at 8pm - Mahler 2, with the Philadelphia Orchestra

Wednesday, November 19th at 8pm - Mahler 7, with the San Francisco Symphony

Friday, April 17th at 8pm - Mahler 6, with the Boston Symphony

This means that, if you were really dedicated, you could see more than half of Mahler’s symphonies this year. And all of them, besides the one I just went to, are at Carnegie Hall.

Is this normal for New York City?? If so, I will be deliriously happy, also broke. 

YAY MAHLER.

*I know the proper term is glissandi, but I always feel really pretentious writing that word.