Wayfarer crests - Page 2

The San Francisco Symphony sails through Mahler
|
()

In Das Lied von der Erde ("The Song of the Earth"), which SFS recorded in 2007, Mahler composed six rather trippy songs based on ancient Chinese poems, four by Li Bai, the "wandering poet" of the Tang dynasty. The vocal wandering and searching continues in Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen ("Songs of the Wayfarer"), which SFS will present with baritone Thomas Hampson. Wayfarer traces a young man's crazy voyage of romantic love, including "I Went this Morning over the Field," in which a finch shouts, "Zink! Zink! How the world delights me!" and the creepy, suicidal, "I Have a Gleaming Knife." SFS will also perform Rückert-Lieder with the radiant mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, in which Mahler forcefully adapts the OK poet Friedrich Rückert, kicking off the set with a bittersweet wink called "Do Not Look at My Songs!"

In working his way through Mahler's oeuvre, SFS conductor Michael Tilson Thomas is doing something very psychologically interesting. The project is a bit anal — everything is polished to MTT's usual, almost fussy, tee and recorded using the latest mind-boggling technology. And it's a bit Oedipal — MTT's mentor, Leonard Bernstein, who also presented Wayfarer with Hampson, became possessed by Mahler at one point, taking on Mahler's symphonies as if his life depended on it. To Bernstein, Mahler foretold a century of death and despair and "showered a rain of beauty on this world." That century is over, and Bernstein's recordings with the New York Philharmonic are gorgeous. So why the redo? Beyond the Freudian hoo-haw, I think MTT, with his ultra-refined yet luminescent interpretations, is moving past it. He's presenting Mahler not as a turbulent visionary or stereotypical cloud-headed groundbreaker but simply as a glowing green fact, one for a new century, complicated and complex enough already, to chew on but not choke on.

SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY MAHLER FESTIVAL

Wed/16-October 3, various times and prices

Davies Symphony Hall

201 Van Ness, SF

(415) 552-8000

www.sfsymphony.org

Also from this author

  • Awesome!

    SUPER EGO Awesome Tapes From Africa comes to the Bay Area -- with his awesome African cassettes. Plus more global nightlife flavor this week with Kafana Balkan and D'Marc Cantu.

  • Southern light

    MOVEABLE FEAST 2014 Eating a path through southern Italy

  • Beat it

    Fall nightlife season is heating up, with Ten Walls, Tiara Sensation, Basic Soul Unit, Hercules and Love Affair, Daniel Wang, Art Beats, and more 

  • Also in this section

  • Good things, small packages

    33 1/3, the ultimate record collector's novella series, turns 10

  • No thanks, Bono

    Three new albums that should magically appear on your iPod in place of Songs of Innocence

  • A show a day: Your fall music calendar

    FALL ARTS 2014 Like a daily multivitamin, your recommended dose of live shows through November