Symphony No.7 in E minor (*), Gustav Mahler
(*) First performance by the OFM

1.15 h (w/out intermission)
Program notes Jose Antonio Canton

photo ©Christian Steiner

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 can be compared to a sumptuous triptych with a concentric structure. The central panel has two movements of Nachtmusik (night music) that frame a ghostly and devilish Scherzo. The first movement appears on the left side, and the finale on the right, as a sort of response to the first. Composed between 1904 and 1905, it lasts nearly one hour and a half, having been written for a large orchestra. It was premiered on the 19th of September in Prague by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer.
In general terms, this symphony is the one that suggests the largest degree of modernity. In the first movement, it is difficult to detect a common thread or unity of intention that could justify bringing together such different five movements. In this work the composer, who never had any reservations regarding excesses, reaches an extreme point in his creative evolution.
Organising its premiere in Prague in the framework of an exhibition dedicated to the Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, who was beginning to be controversial in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was perhaps risky. However, the composer did not have to regret the event due to the zeal and enthusiasm of the Czech and German musicians brought together for the occasion and the fifteen days programmed for rehearsals. The performance was applauded more out of respect than enthusiasm, and the reviews of critics were merely courteous, both in Czechia and Austria.

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