Gustav Mahler, 1902
Gustav Mahler composed his “Lied von der Erde” (Song of the Earth) in the depths of much personal sorrow, and you can hear it in the work. He was inspired by a book of poems by Li Po, translated from the Chinese into German and published during his annus horribilis
, and set seven of them to music, synthesizing a masterly evocation of the fragility and transience of life (along with some heartfelt appreciation for the joys of drunkenness because, well, Chinese poetry). A taste, from the first song of the cycle, "The Drinking Song of Earthly Woe":
The wine beckons in golden goblets
but drink not yet; first I'll sing you a song.
The song of sorrow shall ring laughingly in your soul.
When the sorrow comes, blasted lie the gardens of the soul,
wither and perish joy and singing.
Dark is life, dark is death!
The year’s first installment of Orlando Phil’s Focus Series pairs “Das Lied von der Erde” with a composition by Chen Yi, a Guangzhou-born composer who survived the Cultural Revolution and probably could tell some tales of life’s reversals herself. The Focus Series chamber performances, which are presented at the Plaza Live in a more intimate setting than the full-orchestra Bob Carr concerts, are an excellent chance to feel the textures of the compositions more closely as well as a more affordable way to experience classical music – not to be passed up.
7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14 | The Plaza Live, 425 N. Bumby Ave. | 407-228-1220 | orlandophil.org
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