In this day of social distancing it was nice to be able to stay home and watch a free concert. When will that ever happen again? Hopefully not soon, I know I am ready for the world to get back to normal now. The concert I chose to watch was Iván Fischer: Gustav Mahler Symphony No. 1. This aired on Monday April 13, 2020 at 6 in the evening. Iván Fischer was the only one in the video, and the only instrument he played was the piano. One thing I really enjoyed about this streaming was that Iván discussed different parts of the symphony, that helped a beginner like me have a better understanding of the musical side of it.
Since Iván is only playing the piano in this live stream I did some research on what instruments are typically in a symphony concert. In a symphony concert there are violins, violas, cellos, double bases, piano, harp, piccolo, flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, contra-bassoons, French horns, trumpets, trombones, tuba, tubular bells, snare drum, celesta, glockenspiel, bass drum, gong, and a timpani.
There are so many different instruments it is amazing how they can all come together and create a beautiful work of art. Gustav Mahler Symphony No. 1, is a piece made up of three of his other works, and three works of others. It has four movements, which can be played individually and still be amazing, but make up one large composition.
In the first movement of this piece, Mahler starts adagio and mezzo piano. It crescendos slightly into the melody. He starts with a couple of notes that then transform into the melody of the piece. The tone color of this first movement is mellow and dark in the first couple of notes, but then becomes bright and sunny. Iván said that this first movement Mahler is thinking of nature and is trying to create the beginning as if awakening to the morning sun. Most of the first movement is mezzo piano, andante and light.
In the middle of it, it crescendos presto. There is a part towards the end where it crescendos fast and the tone turns dark. When listening to it, I pictured it as if a villain in a movie was about to appear out of nowhere. The first movement ends with a light andante measure. When listening to a video of the actual symphony I picture someone standing in a field of flowers and singing to them.
In the second movement Iván talks about how Mahler put in a section that you normally do not find in a symphony. Light, easy going measures of music that are vivacity It is like a dancing section, maybe like something you would hear ball room dancing. It has a polyphonic texture. It has a layer under the light new melody, which is deeper. He is showing desire and eagerness in this movement with contrasting melodies. I felt while listening to the movement that I was sitting somewhere in Europe, just leisurely watching the world around me.
In the third movement the tone changes. It seems darker and heavier. It is in a minor key. A minor key is usually portrayed as a very dark and sad sound. Reading about the change of keys in the PowerPoint it says that composers do this to give contrast in a long piece. These first three movements are building up to the climax which is the fourth movement.
In the fourth movement, it starts like the first, except an octave higher. This part of the symphony, the climax is the loudest part, it is vivace and forte into fortissimo. It calms down some and the tone is bright and happy. It ends forte and vivace. Mahler has a very optimistic tone throughout this whole piece, and I think it is an amazing work of art.
During this project, my eyes were open to a deeper level of music. I felt that learning this vocabulary helped me be able to see the music as well as have a deeper listening aspect for it. One day I hope I can see a real symphony orchestra in person and be able to take the music in, in a whole new way. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I chose this piece to listen to, but I am glad I did. It was a lively energetic piece that drew me in and begged me to continue listening.