All-Star Orchestra

FULL EPISODE

Mahler: Love, Sorrow and Transcendence

Featuring the music of Gustav Mahler, Augusta Read Thomas, and Bernard Rands.

AIRED: October 26, 2013 | 0:56:46
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

male narrator: THE IDEA WAS AMBITIOUS.

[horn honking]

THE BEST MUSICIANS IN THE UNITED STATES,

ONE MOMENTOUS WEEK IN NEW YORK CITY,

PERFORMING IN THIS ALL-STAR ORCHESTRA

EXCLUSIVELY FOR OUR CAMERAS...

- I HAD NO IDEA IT WOULD BE QUITE THIS GOOD.

THIS IS PROBABLY THE HIGHEST LEVEL ORCHESTRA

I'VE EVER PLAYED WITH.

JUST ALL THE PLAYERS ARE SO PHENOMENAL, AND IT'S THAT GOOD.

narrator: TO EXPLORE THE MOST EXCITING MUSIC EVER WRITTEN...

- WE HAVEN'T PLAYED TOGETHER BEFORE.

WE HAVEN'T HAD REHEARSAL,

BUT FROM THE VERY FIRST NOTE,

I WAS SO BLOWN AWAY BY HOW AMAZING THE ORCHESTRA SOUNDS.

narrator: TO PRODUCE A TELEVISION SERIES

OF MASTERPIECES.

- BECAUSE EVERYBODY'S SUCH AN ACCOMPLISHED PLAYER,

IT'S EASY TO APPRECIATE EVERYTHING,

BUT THE ONE THING YOU CANNOT TELL BEFORE YOU GET HERE

IS HOW TOGETHER WE PLAY.

WE PLAY AS AN ENSEMBLE.

[dramatic percussion]

- THE WORLD'S BEST MUSICIANS

GATHERED TO MAKE THIS ONE ORCHESTRA.

narrator: FROM MUSIC DIRECTOR GERARD SCHWARZ,

20 BREATHTAKING PERFORMANCES.

MUSIC FROM ALL AGES, FOR ALL AGES.

- ENJOY THE MUSIC TOGETHER, PLAYING TOGETHER.

THERE'S A HUGE ENERGY AROUND,

AND IT WAS WONDERFUL MUSICIANS, AND I'M INSPIRED.

narrator: 18 HIGH-DEFINITION CAMERAS.

AND FOR AN AUDIENCE...

OF JUST YOU.

[suspenseful woodwind flourish]

[dramatic orchestral music]

♪ ♪

- I'M GERARD SCHWARZ, MUSIC DIRECTOR AND CONDUCTOR

OF THIS EXTRAORDINARY ORCHESTRA.

JOIN US AS WE PAIR CELEBRATED CLASSICAL MASTERPIECES

WITH SHORT NEW WORKS BY TODAY'S LEADING AMERICAN COMPOSERS.

THIS PROGRAM FEATURES TWO WORKS BY GUSTAV MAHLER

AND TWO BY LIVING AMERICAN COMPOSERS.

GUSTAV MAHLER, AT THE AGE OF 26,

ARRIVED IN LEIPZIG,

ONE OF THE GREAT IMPORTANT CAPITALS IN GERMANY,

AS THE SECOND CONDUCTOR OF THE OPERA.

EVENTUALLY BECAME THE MUSIC DIRECTOR OF VIENNA STATE OPERA.

HE WAS VERY INVOLVED AT THE METROPOLITAN OPERA IN NEW YORK,

EVENTUALLY BECOMING MUSIC DIRECTOR

OF THE NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC.

WHEN HE DIED, HE WAS HIGHLY RESPECTED AS A CONDUCTOR;

AS A COMPOSER NOT SO MUCH SO,

AND THE MUSIC REALLY WASN'T THAT WELL-KNOWN.

THE RESURGENCE OF INTEREST OF MAHLER CAME IN 1960

PRIMARILY BY LEONARD BERNSTEIN.

- ♪ BLICKE MIR ♪

♪ NICHT IN DIE LIEDER ♪

- MAHLER WAS A GREAT LOVER OF WORDS.

HE WAS A GREAT FAN OF THE POET FRIEDRICH RUECKERT,

AND HE USED MANY OF THESE RUECKERT LYRICS FOR SONGS.

WE PICKED FOUR.

THEY WERE ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR PIANO

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 20TH CENTURY.

- IN FEBRUARY OF 1901,

HE GOT REALLY, REALLY SICK AND ALMOST DIED

AND BECAME PREOCCUPIED WITH DEATH.

IT MARKED A REAL SHIFT IN HIS SONGS.

THEY'RE MUCH MORE PERSONAL.

WE'RE STARTING WITH BLICKE MIR.

MAHLER HATED IT WHEN PEOPLE LOOKED AT HIS WORK

BEFORE IT WAS FINISHED.

- WHEN BEES ARE MAKING THEIR HONEY,

THEY DON'T WANT ANYONE LOOKING AT THEM.

HE DOES USE THE WORD "BEES,"

AND SO WHEN YOU HEAR THE BEGINNING,

IT'S VERY ACTIVE.

THE SECOND SONG LIEBST DU UM SCHOENHEIT...

- "IF YOU LOVE BEAUTY, DON'T LOVE ME.

"IF YOU LOVE YOUTH, DON'T LOVE ME.

"IF YOU LOVE TREASURES, DON'T LOVE ME.

BUT IF YOU LOVE LOVE, LOVE ME."

- THE THIRD SONG IS ABOUT THE LINDEN BUSH.

- IT'S FILLED WITH A KIND OF QUIET HAPPINESS

YOU FEEL WITH SOMEONE DEAR

AND OF WHOM YOU'RE ENTIRELY SURE.

"ICH BIN DER WELT ABHANDEN GEKOMMEN."

- IF THE WORLD IS ABOUT LOVE AND BEAUTY,

THEN I'M ALIVE.

- WHEN I PLAY MAHLER,

I FEEL LIKE I'M LOOKING AT SOMEBODY'S SCRAPBOOK.

I'M GETTING A LOOK AT THIS VERY NOSTALGIC VIEW OF HIS WORLD.

- OUR SINGER, NANCY MAULTSBY, A MEZZO-SOPRANO,

A GREAT SINGER,

AND WE'RE VERY THRILLED

THAT SHE'S PART OF OUR SERIES.

[rushed woodwind music]

♪ ♪

- [singing in German]

[airy orchestral music]

♪ ♪

[airy oboe solo]

♪ ♪

[airy flute solo]

♪ ♪

[relaxed orchestral music]

♪ ♪

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[airy bassoon solo]

♪ ♪

[light orchestral music]

♪ ♪

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[soft orchestral music]

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[gentle violin solo]

♪ ♪

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[soft orchestral music]

♪ ♪

- WHEN HE WENT TO LEIPZIG,

HE MET BARON CARL VON WEBER,

THE GRANDSON OF THE GREAT GERMAN COMPOSER

CARL MARIA VON WEBER.

HIS GRANDSON GAVE HIM SKETCHES OF AN OPERA

CALLED THE THREE PINTOS

THAT WEBER HAD NEVER FINISHED.

MAHLER TOOK IT ON,

AND TWO YEARS LATER WHEN MAHLER WAS 28,

THAT WAS PREMIERED IN THE MAHLER VERSION--

THE THREE PINTOS--

AND IT WAS HIS FIRST GREAT SUCCESS.

COMPOSERS LIKE RICHARD STRAUSS WERE IN THE AUDIENCE.

IT REALLY CATAPULTED HIM TO SOME KIND OF FAME.

NOT ONLY DID HE MEET THE GRANDSON

OF CARL MARIA VON WEBER,

BUT HE MET HIS WIFE, MARIAN,

WHO HE FELL MADLY IN LOVE WITH,

AND THEY HAD A TORRID LOVE AFFAIR.

AT THE TIME, HE WAS WRITING THE FIRST SYMPHONY,

AND SHE WAS INVOLVED AS WELL.

WE WEREN'T THERE. WE DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH.

IT AS ABOUT A HERO AND A TRIUMPHANT ENDING.

AND THEN THE TOTENFEIER.

MAHLER SAYS THAT

THIS WAS NOW THE DEATH OF THAT GREAT HERO

FROM THE FIRST SYMPHONY.

[striking orchestral punches]

- THE MOURNERS THERE CONFRONT WITH SEARCHING QUESTIONS.

WHY DID YOU LIVE? WHY DID YOU STRUGGLE?

IS LIFE NOTHING BUT A HUGE FRIGHTFUL JOKE?

- ALL OF THOSE PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUES

THAT EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, I GUESS, WE ALL THINK ABOUT--

THIS WAS WHAT MAHLER WROTE ABOUT.

♪ ♪

HE REALLY ALMOST FELT LIKE HE HAD NO HOME,

NEVER BEING ACCEPTED

FOR WHAT HE REALLY WANTED TO BE KNOWN FOR,

AND ALWAYS BEING, IN A SENSE, OSTRACIZED

BECAUSE HE WAS BORN JEWISH.

[fretful orchestral music]

♪ ♪

MAHLER USES EVERYTHING.

YOU NAME IT, HE USES IT.

HE NEEDS THOSE VOICES,

AND CERTAINLY NOTHING ELSE

THAT ANYONE EVER HAD HEARD BEFORE.

- FOR SO LONG THAT REPERTOIRE WAS NOT PLAYED

SIMPLY BECAUSE PEOPLE DIDN'T UNDERSTAND IT.

IT WAS JUST TOO WEIRD.

- IF HE HAD WRITTEN THE TOTENFEIER

FOR A SMALLER ORCHESTRA, MY GUESS IS,

SOMEBODY WOULD HAVE TRIED IT.

- I THINK THE SECOND WAS MAHLER'S FIRST LOVE,

BECAUSE WHEN HE CAME TO LEAD THE NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC

AT CARNEGIE HALL, HE PICKED THE 2ND SYMPHONY.

- TO BE ABLE TO SHOW THE INCREDIBLE EMOTIONAL BREADTH

OF THIS COMPOSER

AND OF THE ABILITIES OF THIS GREAT ORCHESTRA

IS PERFECT.

[tense orchestral music]

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

[music intensifies]

♪ ♪

[striking orchestral punches]

♪ ♪

[dramatic orchestral music]

♪ ♪

[light orchestral music]

♪ ♪

[music crescendos]

♪ ♪

[tense orchestral music]

♪ ♪

[striking orchestral punches]

♪ ♪

[music intensifies]

[triumphant brass passage]

♪ ♪

[tense orchestral music]

♪ ♪

[ritardando]

♪ ♪

[mourning French horn passage]

♪ ♪

[ritardando]

♪ ♪

[elegant orchestral music]

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

[jaunting contrabass passage]

♪ ♪

[music intensifies]

♪ ♪

[stalwart brass passage]

♪ ♪

[dramatic orchestral music]

♪ ♪

[diminuendo]

♪ ♪

[gentle flute solo]

♪ ♪

[gentle harp arpeggios]

♪ ♪

[serene orchestral music]

♪ ♪

[sinister orchestral music]

♪ ♪

[creeping contrabass passage]

♪ ♪

[languid English horn solo]

♪ ♪

[accelerando]

♪ ♪

[music intensifies]

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

[stalwart brass passage]

♪ ♪

[dramatic musical punch]

[tense orchestral music]

♪ ♪

[striking orchestral punches]

♪ ♪

[tense orchestral music]

♪ ♪

[light orchestral music]

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

[soft French horn solo]

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[sinister contrabass passage]

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[dismal orchestral music]

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[soft orchestral music]

♪ ♪

[racing downward arpeggio]

♪ ♪

[mild orchestral punch]

[soft orchestral punch]

- OF PARADISE AND LIGHT CAME ABOUT

WHEN I RECEIVED THIS WONDERFUL LETTER FROM JERRY.

HE WAS INVITING MANY COMPOSERS

TO MAKE WORKS FOR HIS FINAL SEASON.

- IT WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR GIRLS CHOIR

TO A POEM CALLED KISS ME BY E.E. CUMMINGS.

- IN SOME WAYS, IT'S A SONG WITHOUT VOICES.

- WHAT AUGUSTA READ THOMAS DOES IS,

WRITES ONLY FOR THE STRINGS,

BUT WITH NO DOUBLE BASSES.

IT GIVES A VERY DIFFERENT SOUND TO THE STRING ORCHESTRA,

A LIGHTER SOUND.

- AND THAT WHY THIS IMAGE

OF PARADISE AND LIGHT,

THAT WE'RE MOVING TOWARD SOME OTHER WORLD OR OTHER PLACE.

ONE OF MY IDOLS IS MAHLER.

[pleasant orchestral music]

THESE IMAGES OF SORT OF THE AFTERLIFE AND ETERNITY,

AND ALL THESE THEMES THAT RAN THROUGH ALL OF MAHLER'S WORK

HAVE AFFECTED ME VERY MUCH,

AND I FEEL THAT YOU GET SOME KIND OF PERFUME OF THAT

IN OF PARADISE AND LIGHT.

- I THINK THAT'S AS APPROPRIATE AND APT DESCRIPTION

OF THIS WONDERFUL WORK.

[ethereal string music]

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

[music crescendos]

♪ ♪

[ethereal string music]

♪ ♪

[light string punches]

♪ ♪

[soft, sustained note]

BERNIE WROTE THIS WONDERFUL PIECE

FOR BRASS QUINTET AND STRINGS.

- ADIEU IS BASED AN ALREADY EXISTING TINY LITTLE FANFARE,

AND THAT FANFARE IS ABOUT TWO MINUTES.

I OCCASIONALLY LIKE TO REVISIT SOMETHING

THAT I DID EARLIER

NOT NECESSARILY TO REVISE,

BUT RATHER TO PLACE THE MUSIC IN A DIFFERENT CONTEXT.

I PARTICULARLY WANTED TO ACCENT

THE FACT THE GERARD SCHWARZ WAS A RENOWNED TRUMPETER

WITH THE NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC

BEFORE BEGINNING HIS DISTINGUISHED CAREER

AS A CONDUCTOR.

- BERNARD WROTE THIS PIECE FOR BRASS QUINTET AND STRINGS

AS A LOOKING BACK INTO MY LIFE AS A BRASS PLAYER.

IT IS A FABULOUS PIECE.

[racing staccato triplets]

♪ ♪

[muted brass fanfare]

♪ ♪

[glissando punch]

[eccentric pizzicato passage]

[tense music]

♪ ♪

[menacing muted brass passages]

♪ ♪

[tense musical punches]

[menacing cello passage]

♪ ♪

[soft, menacing string passage]

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[menacing brass passages]

♪ ♪

[tense music]

♪ ♪

[sustained, menacing note]

[decrescendo]

OUR NEXT PROGRAM COMBINES THE MUSIC OF STRAVINSKY,

RAVEL, AND BRIGHT SHENG.

MUSIC HAS ALWAYS HAD A VERY IMPORTANT PLACE

IN THE HISTORY OF BALLET.

DIAGHILEV WAS MAYBE THE GREATEST OF THE GREAT IMPRESARIOS,

COMMISSIONING BOTH THE FIREBIRD OF STRAVINSKY

AND RAVEL'S DAPHNIS ET CHLOE.

WITH THAT IS THIS BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL WORK

CALLED BLACK SWAN BY BRIGHT SHENG.

[frantic orchestral music]

♪ ♪

male announcer: TO LEARN ABOUT THE MUSIC

OF OUR ALL-STAR ORCHESTRA, SEE VIDEOS, AND MUCH MORE,

LOG ON TO:

[frantic orchestral music]

♪ ♪

[pleasant flute passage]

♪ ♪

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