The extraordinary dimensions of this long - but never tiresome - symphony are warranted by the subject depicted, which is nothing less than the universe itself and nature conceived as a soul. The composer and conductor Pierre Boulez once wrote, 'Mahler's world is not a homogeneous universe at all. He dares to risk disparate styles, he uses quotations and parodies as legitimate tools, and teaches us to listen to music anew: with more variety, more ambiguity and a greater richness.'
This piece dates from 1895/96, when Mahler was working as the conductor of the Hamburg Opera House. The world première, however, only took place in 1902. In spite of the unusually large number of instrumentalists and singers required and the grandiose scale, the Third Symphony was played relatively frequently during Mahler's lifetime. We know of some 25 performances, indicating that the audience sensed the stakes involved in this ambitious artistic undertaking from the very beginning and also perhaps heard in this ocean of notes the kind of joy that Mahler once referred to with these words: "It is all humour and merriment, with the world full of tremendous laughter! This joy floats over the conflicts and suffering of the first and second symphonies, and can only come about as a result of them.'
Presented by: Hungarian Radio Art Groups
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