In conversation with Jean Sibelius, Mahler once reflected that ‘the symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.’
His Symphony No. 3 in D minor is certainly a portrait of the universe, set with appropriately awesome forces. It is one of Mahler’s longest, expanding across six movements in over 90 minutes. It also involves one of Mahler’s largest ensembles, bringing together a significant orchestra with a women’s chorus, a children’s chorus and also a female soloist.
The composer perhaps best summed up his ambitions in a letter written to the soprano Anna von Mildenburg: Just imagine a work of such magnitude that it actually mirrors the whole world – one is, so to speak, only an instrument played on by the universe… My symphony will be something the like of which the world has never yet heard! … In it the whole of nature finds a voice.’
Mahler 3 was Edo de Waart’s first concert as Music Director of the NZSO back in April 2016.