This Saturday night, the Paducah Symphony Orchestra gives the third performance of their season, Mahler's 1st Symphony, at The Carson Center. on Sounds Good, George Eldred speaks with artistic director and conductor Raffaele Ponti about the concert beginning with a tribute to his father through the work by Mascagni, followed by special vocals in Debussy, then a work filled with the sounds of nature by Mahler.
The Debussy is to the visual artist: Monet, says Raffaele Ponti, in that through impressionism feelings evoked can lead to further discoveries revealed in the work. In the third movement, there's a special instrument: the voice - the most beautiful instrument of all time, he says. 16 female voices will walk onto the stage for that movement, become part of the orchestra and walk off the stage.
Debussy pressed the envelope with his work, among the first to use triadic harmonies in non harmonic ways, a dissonant tension and release that comes out in his music like a bee sting among the flowers. The tension of the harmonies and the release makes the music glorious. You appreciate the beautiful things with a little bit of suffering, he says.
Pietro Mascagni's Intermezzo is a charming opening to his opera L'amico Fritz. Ponti says he stumbled upon this piece as remembered from his father, who is now 80, who recalled hearing it in Italy when he was a boy.
Mahler is life, Ponti says, very close to his heart. He was an incredible conductor (a tyrant of a boss and difficult to work with) but had wonderful conducting technique and did very well at it, he says. Most of his writing happened off season in the summer, in his little hut by the lake. Full with wilderness and nature, in Mahler's work you can hear the birds chirping, the clarinet like a cuckoo, woodpeckers and their rhythms, feel a fawn walking by, the calm of the lake, the ripples of the water. Mahler incorporates life into his music, he says. Symphony No. 1, D major (Titan) has moments of chamber music and moments of grandeur and the connection is what makes Mahler's work so special, he says.