Review: BBC Phil, Mahler Festival

Posted on February 16, 2010

The Telegraph’s David Fanning reviews the BBC Philharmonic’s concert of Mahler and Cerha, part of the Mahler in Manchester series.

“IN 1960, the centenary of Mahler’s birth was a turning point, and not just for his reputation. Suddenly everyone woke up to music that felt more modern than anything the pundits had been calling modernist or avant-garde. And so musical postmodernism was born. Well, more or less. 

Fifty years on, perhaps Mahler has become so much part of the furniture that we need reminding how innovative and rebellious he was. Which may be why the BBC Philharmonic and the Hallé came up with the idea of commissioning companion pieces for each of his symphonies from composers inspired by his work.

The danger is, of course, that the new pieces will be simply dwarfed, as Friedrich Cerha’s 20-minute tone-poem, Like a Tragicomedy, undoubtedly was. Cerha is known for his fine work in orchestrating the final act of Berg’s Lulu. Now in his eighties, his music is still nostalgic for the Second Viennese School, to judge from its frantic, convulsive tuttis and etiolated, mandolin-tinged episodes.

To read the whole review – click here