I am playing with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic this week, and we are doing Mahler’s 4th Symphony. I have never played this piece before, and I am having a fantastic time – the orchestra sounds great and it is a pleasure to play such a large-scale piece.
This music is such an enjoyable challenge to play. It is sooo romantic, and every bar – every beat, sometimes, has a different character. The colors change constantly. Every minute is fascinating, and challenging, and beautiful. As a player I am engaged all the time.
It’s a treat, too, to discover this great work from the relative safety of the second oboe chair. I can sit in the middle of the action and listen and enjoy everyone else’s musical ideas and gestures while my job is merely to make the oboe work in the low register. And I can do that without too much stress, so I’m having fun.
I really hope the audience enjoys this piece. Although I love playing it, in my preparation I have struggled to pay attention as the recording rolls along. Somehow for me Mahler never really seems to come to the point. Every minute is amazing but I don’t feel the big arc of the story.
I like a clear narrative, and I like to say what I came to say and move on along. I get terribly impatient if a novel goes on too long a tangent from the story line, or gets embroiled in description. In some ways this Mahler symphony feels that way to me. Gorgeous and interesting minute by minute but after an hour I’m not sure why I bothered. But people read Proust, and other wordy novels, and people LOVE Mahler, and Wagner, and Bruckner. It takes all kinds and I am so glad that it does! Without enthusiastic listeners I would never get to do what I do.