Looking back and looking ahead. It is between these two that this symphonic concert is set; in addition to Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, it comprises an unusual version of Schubert’s Tenth Symphony, which remained fragmentary and incomplete, by Luciano Berio.
Mahler’s Fourth Symphony takes us from early life experiences right back to the original innocence of childhood. To use Berio’s own words, Rendering is a ‘recomposition’ of sketches and plans for the bare bones of a work that Franz Schubert left us on his death. Berio does not aim to complete or reconstruct it, but to let his own fascinating world of sound and musical idiom dialogue with Schubert. Schubert’s orchestral swansong shows him to be a visionary composer whose work often comes close to the later symphonies of Bruckner and Mahler.
At the end of Mahler’sFourth Symphony we hear the song Das himmlische Leben. We are transported into a childlike version of paradise that displays some remarkably worldly features. There are no metaphysics, but abundant food and drink, though St Cecilia and her musicians treat us to music that cannot be compared to anything one can hear in our world. All the previous parts of the symphony prepare us for this ultimate naivety, which makes Mahler’s work deceptively charming. Yet this symphony also focuses on the great questions of life, love and death.