Perhaps the greatest symphonic masterpiece in the repertoire, Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 is the realisation of the composer’s colossal vision of “the whole universe ringing and resounding”. Often called the Symphony of a Thousand, the huge instrumental and vocal forces that it requires will be supplied at The Bridgewater Hall by a plethora of soloists, instrumentalists and choirs from all corners of the UK and beyond. They will join Chetham’s School of Music’s senior Symphony Orchestra in a rapturous celebration of the school’s 50th anniversary year. Set to be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, this promises to be a very special evening indeed.
One of the largest-scale choral works in the classical concert repertoire, Mahler’s symphony was composed in a single inspired burst in southern Austria, in the summer of 1906. The last of the composer’s works that was premièred in his lifetime, Symphony No. 8 recalled the fusion of song and symphony which characterised Mahler’s early output. Unconventionally structured, it’s a piece of two parts, with the first based on the Latin text Veni Creator Spiritus, and the second a setting of the words from the closing scene of Goethe’s Faust. These parts are unified by a common idea – that of redemption through the power of love.
As soon as he had penned the work, Mahler was convinced of its significance, proclaiming Symphony No. 8 to be his finest work and offering it as an expression of confidence in the eternal human spirit. After being troubled for some time by thoughts of failing powers, the composer’s completion of the masterpiece (within just eight weeks) was cause for great celebration. “I have never composed anything like this”, Mahler wrote shortly after its completion. “I have probably never worked under such compulsion; it was a vision that struck me like lightning”.
This vision will be brought to life at The Bridgewater Hall in magnificent style. Providing the centrepiece of Chetham’s School of Music’s 50th anniversary year, Chetham’s musicians welcome friends from around the world to perform the symphony. As well as soloists, instrumentalists and choirs from every corner of the UK, performers include international partners from Australia, Norway and beyond. All gather together to celebrate Chetham’s 50-year journey – from its founders’ vision of a unique musical community to its current position at the forefront of music education in the UK. This will be a concert to remember.