Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Opening concert Musikfest Berlin 2023

Iván Fischer, conductor
Widmann / Mahler

The moon shines brightly over the roof of a house.

© Carlos Ebert via flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra from Amsterdam feels a particularly strong connection with the music of Gustav Mahler, a composer who often conducted his own music in Amsterdam. In the opening concert of Musikfest Berlin 2023, the Concertgebouw Orchestra presents Mahler’s turbulent Seventh Symphony, conducted by its honorary guest conductor Iván Fischer. This is preceded by orchestral songs by Jörg Widmann, music full of tender reminiscences of the music of Mahler and the early Romantics.

“Islands of Dreams” is how Gustav Mahler’s contemporary Richard Specht described the two “Nachtmusik” movements of the Seventh Symphony. According to Alma Mahler, her husband had “Eichendorff’s visions”, “babbling streams” and “German Romanticism” in mind while he was composing them. However, these endangered idylls are far removed from overt postcard Romanticism – with their flickering scraps of imagery, calling and (“falsely”) responding horns and eerie nocturnal birdsong. In Mahler’s own words one occasionally hears an “earthly sound echoing from the farthest distance” as if one “were standing on the highest peak facing eternity.” In Berlin, Mahler’s Seventh is performed by the brilliant Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra from Amsterdam, that played the Dutch premiere of the work back in 1909 conducted by the composer. In Iván Fischer, who for years has been one of the most sought-after orchestral leaders in the world, the baton is taken by an acknowledged expert in this music: a conductor who explicitly takes seriously “Mahler’s unorthodox instructions,” his “apparently unorthodox bowing,” and “his rule for the brass to play holding the horns of their instruments high,” things that cannot be taken for granted to this day. Before the interval, the programme consists of Jörg Widmann’s “Das heiße Herz” with the baritone Michael Nagy as the soloist – a song cycle based on the poems from “Des Knaben Wunderhorn”, the collection of folk songs that meant so much to Mahler, among others: “texts that are radically simple and true, that strike deep into your heart.” (Widmann)

Concert Programme

Jörg Widmann (*1973)
Das heiße Herz (2013/2018)
Song cycle for baritone and orchestra (selection)

Der arme Kaspar
Hab’ ein Ringlein am Finger
Das Fräulein stand am Meere
Einsam will ich untergehn

Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911)
Symphony No. 7 in E minor (1904 – 1906)

19:10, South Foyer
Work introduction

Jörg Widmann in conversation with Fanny Tranck
Tothe interview

Programmebooklet Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra 26.8.2023


A Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin event
The concerts with contemporary works are part of the contemporary music month of the field notes initiative.