Tatarstan Symphony Orchestra performs ''drama in sounds''

Symphony No. 6 by Gustav Mahler has sounded in Kazan for the first time

Tatarstan Symphony Orchestra performs ''drama in sounds'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

The international festival Rakhlin Seasons, held for the seventh time, finished in Kazan with the premiere performance of the Symphony No. 6 by Gustav Mahler. If all festival evenings were special for the audience, the final concert by power of sound and dramatism stood out.

Internal enemy

Gustav Mahler was one of the favourite composers of the founder of the Tatarstan Symphony Orchestra Natan Rakhlin, who believed that maturity of an orchestra is verified by performing this composer's symphonies. After parting from the life of Natan Rakhlin, the orchestra played Mahler not very often. But chief conductor and artistic director Alexander Sladkovsky, who took the post seven years ago, in some way has returned the ''fashion for Mahler''. Performing of his symphonies is a really testament to the level of the orchestra.

Although the Symphony No. 6 by Gustav Mahler is not called ''tragic'' by the author, in the music world it is known this way. A friend of the composer wrote: ''It conveys a drama in sounds, a Titanic struggle of a hero perishing in a dreadful catastrophe.''

What disaster was it? If to follow the reasoning of the composer, then we have a ''vain struggle with his inner world'', as we know, the first enemy of man is himself. The fall brought him from Paradise, and now only the pursuit of joy is the memory of past bliss.

Mahler began writing the Symphony in the summer of 1903 and completed a year later. It was born to him (that's strange!) in one seemingly quiet periods of his life. But on his desk there laid The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and A Confession by Leo Tolstoy. The books are not for complacent reading. One more detail — the Symphony No. 6 is created at the same time as Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children). So, according to Mahler, the enemies of man ''are not outside, but inside him.''

One more observation: Mahler, like any sensitive artist, could not help but feel that floated in the air of Europe, entering the last quiet decade. Ten years later, Gavrilo Princip's shot interrupted the peaceful course of history, Europe after the events in Sarajevo never was the same. And this feeling of impending disaster is also in the Symphony No. 6.

Gustav Mahler was one of the favourite composers of the founder of the Tatarstan Symphony Orchestra Natan Rakhlin. Photo:

Death of modern heroes

Alexander Sladkovsky interprets the Symphony No. 6 by Mahler as a high tragedy. The conductor enters the stage nervously smiling, already bringing this tragedy in himself. Like a ''Russian Hamlet'', he decides for himself the eternal questions of being, like beating on a wall, finding no way out. Romance of Sladkovsky in the first part of the Symphony captures the spirit of the tragic contradictions of life, disturbing premonitions.

He is like a stretched string, the sound of violins — like flashes of fire. Sitting in the hall, where during all the half hour of the Symphony it is very anxious and uncomfortable, as if you see is a distant glow, a feeling of colour becomes almost real. Red and black — the colors of tragedy, that terrible distress in the soul of the author, which sensitively considered the conductor and led by him orchestra.

Maestro makes an unusually long pause between the first and second parts, and this is not a grandstanding, not a trick, it is his current state when you have to make a step but want to delay this moment. There are three parts of the Symphony ahead — like fissure in the abyss. Abyss of passion, where people are attracted.

The finale of the Symphony No. 6 is tragic whirlwinds that came from space, it's the ninth wave, sweeping away everything on the way. The conductor is mysterious, he stands on that high degree of spirituality, when the flames of tragedy does not burn but catharize. Amazingly, but in the interpretation of Alexander Sladkovsky the finale of the Symphony No. 6 has no despair and surrendering to fate, it has a challenge to this whirlwind, there is a desperate courage of the antique hero.

''When age is buried, a farewell Psalm does not sound.'' The Symphony No. 6 performed by the Tatarstan Symphony Orchestra as if just yesterday buried the era and its heroes. ''But the stars ascend a new star.'' In the powerful, tragic sound of the orchestra there already matured the future. Beautiful and terrible at the same time.

By Tatyana Mamaeva