Mahler 8, “Symphony of A Thousand”

31 Aug

Last week I was lucky enough to perform Mahler’s 8th symphony, aptly nicknamed “Symphony of a Thousand” as it pretty much feels like a thousand person ensemble. This might be the only time I’ll ever perform Mahler 8, as it’s one of the largest scale orchestral works in the classical repertoire.  With three distinct choruses and an extra large orchestra, our concert had about 500 performers.  Luckily, we performed in a huge music tent and had space/another balcony for most of the singers (A google search of “Mahler 8” will show you some pretty hilarious pictures of musicians piled on to each other in concert halls).

Action shot. Photo credit to catherinecussaguet.com

It’s really just awesome to play with choruses. Being in the middle of an orchestra is already powerful, and when large choirs start singing you can literally feel the sound all around you. To be honest, there were spots in rehearsal that I was so wrapped up in listening to the music all around me that I missed one or two entrances… oops!

Standing room only! Photo credit to catherinecussaguet.com

Like Beethoven 9, the libretto is about the eternal human spirit and the joy is so uplifting. The energy of so many people working together to create something beautiful is a magnificent experience, so if you ever see an advertisement for a live performance of Mahler 8, don’t even think about it – just go!

-Michelle

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