January 12, 2004
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456 or mstepanovich@csub.edu

Musica da Camera, California State University, Bakersfield’s symphony orchestra, will present its biggest program in years: a performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in D Major, "The Titan," on Saturday, Jan. 24, at 8 p.m. in the Doré Theater.

Also on the program is L'Arlesienne Suite No. 2 by Georges Bizet.

“This is a monumental undertaking,” said Gordon Mehling, CSUB music professor and Musica da Camera’s director. “Mahler wasn’t much recognized or appreciated as a composer during his lifetime, largely due to the fact that he was cutting new ground. Today the brilliance of his intellect and his efforts are recognized. What distinguishes him as a composer is his egalitarianism that manifested itself in his works. ‘The Titan’ is an excellent example. And as Mahler himself said, ‘The symphony is the world! The symphony must embrace everything.’”

Gustav Mahler was born in 1860 in Kalischt, just southeast of Prague, in what is today the Czech Republic. He showed an early talent for music, studied briefly in Prague before moving on to Vienna, Austria, where he studied at the Vienna Conservatory.

He gained fame as a conductor, beginning his career in small cities, but as his reputation grew, he found himself conducting in Hamburg and Leipzig, Germany; Prague, and Budapest, Hungary. Eventually he was appointed music director at the Vienna Court Opera in 1897, where he revolutionized the way opera was staged, and raised the Vienna Court Opera to new heights.

In 1909 he was appointed director of the New York Philharmonic, but died just two years later in 1911 after what historians have described as a struggle with a heart ailment. When he died, he left his wife, Alma Schindler, and a daughter; his eldest daughter died at age 4 in 1907, a tragedy that was to affect his health and mood until his death four years later.

As with any groundbreaking composer with something fresh to say, Mahler's symphonies were greeted with hostility at first. Audiences were largely unimpressed, and even baffled by the orchestration. But thanks to the advocacy of conductors such as Bruno Walter and Leonard Bernstein, who elevated his nine symphonies to Beethoven-like status for modern audiences, they are now recognized as the height of the Austro-German symphonic tradition.

His First Symphony, nicknamed “The Titan" after a novel by Jean Paul, was first performed in Budapest in 1889. Mahler was then 29 and beginning his second season as director of the Budapest Opera. At the time of its first performance, Mahler did not even call this work a symphony, but instead referred to it as a symphonic poem. Each movement has its own character: The first movement, for example, depicts the awakening of nature from winter sleep; the fourth a hunter's funeral after the picture "How the Animals Bury the Hunter" from a popular Austrian children's book.

Advance tickets for the Jan. 24 concert are available at Russo's Books in The Marketplace shopping center, and will be available at the door the evening of the concert beginning at 7:15 p.m. Cost is $10 general admission, $7 for students and seniors, $3 for children under 10.

For more information, please call the CSUB Music Department at CSUB, (661) 664-3093.