The Galveston Symphony Orchestra’s next concert features Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. Music Director Trond Saeverud talked about the program.
Q. There’s so much to talk about with Mahler’s First Symphony: the length, the size of the orchestral forces, the funeral march that might remind us of the nursery song “Frere Jacques.” Why did you choose it?
A. Considered one of the greatest of all romantic symphonies, it’s a piece that orchestras enjoy very much playing. We often program these large, late romantic works on our Valentine’s concerts, and they are, in a way, musical parallels to movies such as “Gone With the Wind” and “Casablanca.”
Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony was very well received some years ago, and Mahler No. 1 is just as thrilling and satisfying — and much more varied: from pastoral forest idyll with bird song to wild, exhilarating rides and surreal, absurd, dream-like events. “Frere Jacques,” in a minor key, for example, describes a strange print that fascinated Mahler — of crying animals in a hunter’s funeral procession.
Q. Many music lovers contend that Dvorak wrote the greatest of all cello concertos. But some of us disagree and are delighted to see Elgar’s masterpiece on the program. This concerto has been described as the last great work of perhaps the last great Romantic composer. Is that too far off base?
A. No, I think that is a reasonable view — among many others. And it is curious to consider how seldom England has produced composers who made it “big” — many would say none in the 200 years between Purcell and Elgar. Yes, I agree that this is a wonderful, beautiful concerto, and I look very much forward to performing it with Julian Schwarz.
Q. Julian Schwarz, like you, comes from a musical family with accomplished performers and composers. How did you arrange his trip to Galveston?
A. We have a very good working relationship with his agent who regularly sends me rosters of young talent that I proceed to research online, reviewing videos and other material. Julian’s stellar performance of the Elgar — with his father conducting — helped convince me to hire him for this piece.
Julian is also giving a recital at our Moody Mansion Music series together with his pianist girlfriend Marika Bournaki, who is quite famous for her award-winning documentary “I am not a rock star.”
Q. We also have a world premiere. Please tell us about Tim Pence. He’s a New Englander, isn’t he?
A. Yes! I know him from Maine, where my wife and I usually spend summers, but Tim Pence moved there from Boston where he studied at the New England Conservatory and later ran various cultural programs.
Tim knew that we would also have Mahler 1 on the program, so he uses the huge orchestra employed in that piece — and has created an exciting new work for us that connects well to the grand symphony after intermission. Like Mahler, he moves us through dreamlike and surreal soundscapes and gives us detailed instructions on mood and character — including a section called “losing our minds” — using double basses and tuba for that purpose. Try to see if you can catch where that happens — and Happy Valentine’s Day!