I’ll admit, this isn’t my usual scene. But it’s hard not watch on in awe at the fervent sawing action of the violin play, the rise and fall of the flautists, the cacophony of sound it creates.
Mahler’s Third Symphony, at 100 minutes, is the longest symphony in the usual repertoire. The vocal contributions are minimal, though exquisite (performed by Ester Pavlů and the NYCOS Edinburgh Choir), and Pavlů’s operatic solo (from the fourth movement) is a particular delight.
The story too, is bittersweet; a six-movement work performed in two parts. The first, a strong and decisive opening (Kräftig. Entschieden), translated as 'Pan Awakes, Summer Marches In' (with an unexpected, at least to me, inclusion of the funeral march). Next, moving to the delicate and effortless (Tempo di Menuetto; 'What the Flowers in the Meadow Tell Me'), the comfortable and good-tempered Comodo (Scherzando) 'What the Animals in the Forest Tell Me'. Following, the slow and mysterious Sehr langsam—Misterioso ('What Man Tells Me') juxtaposed with the cheeky and cheerful Lustig im Tempo und keck im Ausdruck ('What the Angels Tell Me'), and closing with the tranquil and deeply-felt Langsam—Ruhevoll—Empfunden ('What Love Tells Me').
The story moves seamlessly through the awakening of nature, a walk through the woods and meadows, an abrupt reminder of nature’s unbridled power (through several off-stage post-horn interjections). Then, a journey through night and day, dreaming and wakefulness, joy and grief, the joys of heaven, and resting at an inspired quest for truth.
The Usher Hall certainly is a beautiful venue, and I am reminded once more of the varieties that Edinburgh has to offer, with very generous student discounts too. The perfect Sunday afternoon activity, the Sunday Classics offers a wonderful introduction to classical music for the uninitiated such as myself!
The Sunday Classics International Series 2019-2020 consists of seven concerts by the world's leading orchestras and soloists. For a detailed overview of the orchestras and their programme, visit www.usherhall.co.uk/sunday-classics for information and tickets.