Redwood Symphony ends its season tomorrow night, with a special concert program that includes Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – but it’s the version that composer and conductor Gustav Mahler prepared in 1900. Music Director Eric Kujawsky and the orchestra have not only played all of Mahler’s own symphonies, they’ve now played all four of the ‘retouched’ Beethoven ones as well. The concert is presented in cooperation with Bay Choral Guild and Masterworks Chorale.
There’s more information about the concert at Redwood Symphony’s website.
“Mahler’s reinterpretations, or what he called ‘retouchings’ of Beethoven’s 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th symphonies were very controversial,” Kujawsky says. “In some cases, he made some really startling changes, some of which I’m not doing, most of which I’m not doing. But for the most part, he’s really respectful, and what he does is he uses wind doublings to bring out things that you normally wouldn’t hear.” The purpose of the edits was, in part, to bring them up to date for the larger halls and more versatile instruments. “He uses his method of sort of gradating dynamics also to do the same thing. He takes advantage of instruments that were 80 years more modern and had more expanded ranges, in terms of winds, brass that had valves and so on. So when you put all of this together, it still sounds like the ninth, most people wouldn’t recognize the difference but it’s cleaner, it has more details that you can hear.” And, lest anyone think making changes to Beethoven’s symphonies should be off limits, he adds: “What he does is also what Wagner did, and actually all conductors make changes to composers. But what’s convenient about this is that it’s a published edition. I don’t have to add all my own markings and reinvent the wheel. He has done a remarkable job, and all I had to do was step in and make a few changes according to my own tastes.” Also on the program are excerpts from Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite, conducted by Bryan Baker, and the Academic Festival Overture, led by Sanford Dole.