Callum’s Mahler 2 review

CSO Mahler 2 rehearsal

our view of Mahler 2 (mvts. II, III, & V) in rehearsal

My dad and I went to the Canton Symphony rehearsal on a Thursday night. The only piece they were going to play on the concert that weekend was Mahler’s second symphony. This rehearsal was really special because after they rehearsed the first movement and took a break, we got to sit up on stage right behind the trombones. The basses were right next to us on our left, the trumpets and horns were on our right, and the percussion was farther over to the right. They were the perfect seats. We sat where the chorus was going to sit in the concert, because this rehearsal was only for the orchestra, no chorus. I thought it was completely awesome. One of the reasons it was a great experience was because I play trombone, and I got to watch the trombones play right in front of me. They all sounded great. Of course, it would have been a great experience even if I didn’t play trombone. I think it would be great to be able to play trombone in the Canton Symphony. It sounded so different from up there. It was just so awesome to be almost surrounded by the music, especially when it’s a piece as incredible as Mahler’s second symphony. It was just amazing. I also got to see Mr. Zimmermann’s facial expressions, and could really see how much the music means to him, how much he enjoys conducting it, and how passionate he is about it. I could also hear what he was saying to the orchestra, which a lot of times I can’t when we’re sitting down in the regular seats.

They didn’t play the movements in order at this rehearsal. After we moved up on stage behind the trombones, the first movement they rehearsed was actually the last, the fifth movement, which was awesome. But I think all the movements are awesome. The fifth movement is when the choir sings, but like I said before, they weren’t at this rehearsal. So when it got to the part where the choir was supposed to come in, one of the basses made a joke and said to us “Ok, now this is where you sing, go ahead” and all the basses laughed. Mr. Zimmermann also sang some of the parts that the choir or one of the soloists would normally be singing. Sitting on stage for the end of the fifth movement in rehearsal was one of the most intense things I’d ever experienced, and I couldn’t imagine how much more powerful it would be when the choir was singing, too. But then in the concert, it really was… but I’ll get to that later.

We also saw a TV back stage that showed Mr. Zimmermann conducting, and my dad said that was for the trumpets and horns that were going to be playing back stage sometimes during the fifth movement. They could watch Mr. Zimmermann on the TV so they would know when to play and how fast to play. They didn’t go back stage for that rehearsal, but they were going to for the concert.

They rehearsed the second movement next, and it was so completely different than the first or the fifth. It’s very soft most of the time, and really beautiful, like a waltz. I really like it. Later my mom told me she read that it represents the joy of life. There was a really cool, but sort of weird, part that the only instruments I heard were plucked (pizzicato) strings, the harp, the flutes, and piccolo, I think.

Then they rehearsed the third movement, which was really different than the others, too. It starts out very loud with timpani. Then it gets very soft and sounds sort of like a dance. During a couple parts, the percussionist was playing a weird instrument that Mahler created (I think). It’s not really an instrument that you can buy, at least I don’t think you can. It looked like a bundle of thin sticks, sort of like dry spaghetti or something. But Mahler wrote in the music to tap the sticks on the rim of a bass drum, which sounded really different. Mr. Zimmermann actually told the percussionist to go outside the next day and just pick up some sticks off the ground and use them instead, because he said it would sound the same, but look more interesting. I didn’t think that he was serious about that, but he was.

I want to go back and talk about the first movement, too, even though we were sitting down in the regular seats when they rehearsed it. It starts out pretty loud, enough to scare you if you’re not ready. Parts of it get kind of creepy, and it’s really cool. I think part of the movement also sounds a little like Star Wars. Or actually, Star Wars sounds like it. I heard the Dies Irae during parts of it, too, and it turns out that Mahler actually put it in there on purpose. The first movement has one of my favorite parts of the whole symphony. It is so powerful and loud, and pretty dissonant. When my dad played a recording of it for me the first time, I thought it sounded like a great ending. So I was sort of surprised when there was still more of the movement left. Right before it, there’s a part where the string players bang the back of their bows on their strings, which sounded really cool and sort of scary. It made me think of spiders, because it sounded like the sound effect for Gold Skulltulas (spiders) in Legend of Zelda. And then there’s a part that I thought even sounds a little bit like Stars and Stripes Forever by Sousa. And then there’s that big powerful climax that sounds to me like an ending, and right after that it sounds like silence. But if you listen you hear the violins playing quietly, and then the movement keeps going like before. It’s definitely one of my favorite sections of music I’ve ever heard.

A couple other things happened at that rehearsal that made it really special, too. Ms. Waddell, the new assistant conductor, told me after the rehearsal that at another rehearsal, I could sit next to her and read the score while they’re rehearsing the music. That would be really awesome. And also, Mike, the stage manager, called me buddy when I came into the rehearsal. He’s a really nice guy. I don’t remember if I mentioned this before, but at the open house after they put the new seats in this year, Mike took my dad and me up above the stage really high where we  could look down at the stage and see everything. It would be really cool to be up there and look down at the stage during a concert. Maybe I could do that sometime during a rehearsal. That would be awesome. Except I get a little scared of heights sometimes, so maybe not.

I was very excited for the concert that weekend because of that awesome rehearsal, and of course because it’s the Canton Symphony, but also because I knew the music well. My dad played me some of his recordings that we have at home. He always plays me recordings before a concert. There have been a couple times where there is a surprise in the music and I already know about it because my dad played it for me, so sometimes I ask him not to, because I don’t want to know how it goes until the concert.

So then we went to the concert. It was special because this is the piece that my mom and dad saw the Cleveland Orchestra play on their second date. This symphony is very long. It’s long enough to make up a whole concert. They even took an intermission after the first movement. Mahler suggested a 5 minute pause after the first movement since the second movement is so completely different than the first, so taking an intermission then made sense. This symphony is mostly very powerful, strong, full of excitement and energetic, but it is also very beautiful and quiet at times. I thought this concert was really awesome. It was really cool when the backstage trumpets and the horns played. It really made it sound like they were in the distance. It made me think of the orchestra playing this piece outside, and in the background, way off in the distance, you could see trumpets and horns playing. I thought that effect was really cool. I loved it. When the choir finally sings in the last movement, at first it’s so quiet you can barely hear them, but by the end it’s really, really powerful. Sometimes it sounded like old church music in a cathedral, especially because at the end there are loud chimes that sound like the bells on top of a cathedral.

Mahler is probably my favorite classical composer now. I hope I get to hear Mr. Zimmermann and the Canton Symphony play more of his music. And as always, I can’t wait until their next concert!

Share this post:

Leave a Reply