Friday 18 May

Mozart and Mahler

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra

Time 7:30pm
National Concert Hall Dublin

Tickets: from €15

  • John Storgårds
  • Nathalia Milstein 
  • Mozart
    Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K488
  • Mahler
    Symphony No. 6, Tragic

SOUNDINGS 6.30pm Pianist Nathalia Milstein in conversation with Eamonn Lawlor

From the cheerful, cosseting lyricism of Mozart’s 23rd Piano Concerto to the deepest dark of Mahler’s Tragic Symphony, a concert that embraces the extremes of human emotion in the hands of two exemplary musicians: conductor John Storgårds, ‘an earthy, powerful, passionate musician’ (The New Listener) and pianist Nathalia Milstein, ‘the possessor of a superb technique and a true artist’ (Sunday Times) and winner of the 2015 Dublin International Piano Competition.

Composed in a flurry of writing at his magisterial mature peak, the Piano Concerto No. 23 was one of several such works Mozart wrote during 1785-86, during which time he was also completing his opera Le nozze di Figaro. Set in A major, a key that spoke of brightness of spirit, warmth and tenderness to the composer. Those qualities are certainly to the fore in a work in which piano and orchestra seem inseparably conjoined in the most intimate and intricate of embraces.

From its sunny, easy-going introduction to the spellbinding tragedy-infused beauty of its middle movement and playful vitality of its finale, it is a work of exceptional richness – even by Mozart’s incomparable standards.

Mahler’s Sixth Symphony was famously described by the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler as ‘the first nihilistic work in the history of music’. The composer’s friend and champion Bruno Walter refused to conduct it because, he complained, it ‘ends in hopelessness and the dark night of the soul’. Whatever its emotional demands, it is also a work that pushes, with monumental force, at the boundaries of the symphonic form.

Amidst the tumult and turmoil are moments of the sweetest repose and (in its use of cowbells) pastoral idyll. Mahler’s wife, Alma, insisted the symphony was autobiographical but composed in anticipation of events that would shake Mahler to his core: in 1907, a year after its completion, his daughter died, his prestigious contract with the Vienna State Opera was ended and he received the first diagnosis of a heart condition that would end his life just four years later.