After Mahler

So here’s the thing. Although I more or less make a living doing other things, a great deal of my time and energy is directed at making music. At this time of year, it’s the start of the concert season and so in addition to about three recent choral concerts and another two next week, my orchestra gave our first concert on Sunday. There are normally about seven rehearsals per concert, so for the past couple of months it’s all been about Mahler and Britten – getting the music, putting the bowings in, practicing (a bit), and lots of wrangling with it all for three hours each Friday evening.

Mahler – Blumine / Britten – Sinfonia da Requiem / Mahler – Symphony No. 1.

September-November 2012


A now we’re done, done, and onto the next one. Except… I’m not quite ready.

Concert day is always pretty exhausting, and as librarian for the orchestra my work doesn’t finish until all the music is collected, sorted and packed ready to return. But that’s nothing a good night’s sleep won’t fix;  it’s the emotional drain that tends to stretch on for a few days, at least. I’ve realised that the end of a concert is a bit like the end of a relationship. Not necessarily a long-term one where you spent time with their in-laws and have bad holiday photos and still keep finding odd items of clothing at the backs of drawers; perhaps more the sort where you got through the initial crappy awkwardness of dating, to the point where you were starting to understand one another better and start to see some potential. That sort. Only for one reason or another it suddenly ends (he’s allergic to cats; you’re allergic to married men; one of you is allergic to commitment) and you’re left a little discombobulated by it all, trying to figure out what it was that you lost, and whether or not you’re likely to see it again.

After getting past the weird bits, figuring out tricks for the unplayable bits and embracing these awesome pieces of music – warts and all – you’re done. It had all started to make sense, and finally in performance, with the audience to share with, it became music, and it was wonderful and it affected you in some way. Epic, complex music that made your soul rattle its cage for a short while. And now, you pack up and move on…

I may play Mahler 1 again, but it will never be the same. You can’t just pick up where you left off; it will be different. I’ll be different. Will I like it as much next time? Will the Britten affect me in the same way if I play it with a different orchestra? What if we don’t “get” it? What about a different conductor? A different audience, even. I wonder if professional orchestras feel the same, or if the extra time they get to spend on repertoire means that closure is easier to come by?

Music is weird like that. Thank god. I hope I never understand it.

I shall content myself with stalking Mahler and Britten on Spotify (just to see how they’re getting on, of course), and preparing for Mozart and Vivaldi – and more Britten. That guy gets around, but he is the birthday boy, and looking good at c. 100…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *