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From searing to joyful, intimate to haunting, Mahler's shadowy universe is channeled by the infinitely expressive San Francisco Symphony in this dramatic sonic excursion. Winner of two Grammy Awards for their recording of the Seventh Symphony, MTT and the San Francisco Symphony return to this epic work for one of the most exciting concert events of the year.
All sound clips are from San Francisco Symphony performances and are used with permission of the SFS Players Committee.
Mahler's Symphony No. 7
Symphony No. 7 1905 | 80 mins
In June 1905, Mahler headed back to his summer residence at Maiernigg, on Austria’s Wörther See, to continue work on his Seventh Symphony. He could not find the way into the composition. He took off for the Dolomites, hoping to release his creative energies, but nothing happened. Profoundly depressed, he returned. He stepped from the train and was rowed across the lake. With the first dipping of the oars into the water, he recalled later, “the theme of the introduction (or rather, its rhythm, its atmosphere) came to me.”
He described his Seventh Symphony, which is sometimes subtitled Song of the Night, as having a symmetrical structure: three night pieces (a genre in which Mahler excelled), with a finale representing bright day, and a first movement as foundation for the whole. Indeed, the first and last movements flank three character pieces, which are themselves symmetrical in that the first and third are called Nachtmusik. The opening is music in which we may hear not only the stroke of oars, but the suggestion of a solemn procession. The first Nachtmusik is a nocturnal patrol (possibly inspired by Rembrandt’s so-called Night Watch), the second is a magical serenade. The middle character piece is a ghostly parody of a waltz. The Finale is a wild and wonderful movement with adroit and wittily inventive references to Wagner’s Die Meistersinger.
At the Seventh's premiere, the Nachtmusiken and the Scherzo made their effect at once; the first and last movements were harder nuts to crack. That has not changed substantially with the years and the Seventh is still perhaps the least known of Mahler's symphonies.
Mahler’s Seventh is a victory symphony, not a personal narrative but a journey from night to day. The focus is on nature—on the world humans inhabit more than on humans themselves. Read More
Steven Ziegler is Managing Editor at the San Francisco Symphony.