Symphony Concert 2
Stars Rising to Mahler’s Majesty

Evergreen Theatre, 5001 Joyce Ave, Powell River

Friday June 28 – 7:30 PM
Saturday June 29 – 1:30 PM

About the Repertoire

Tobin Stokes (b. 1966)

Just Keep Paddling (2017)

Just Keep Paddling is a fun, upbeat trip on Canada’s rivers, lakes, and ocean coastlines. At the beginning, you’ll hear the waters ripple away as a canoe is plunked in the water, and from there, a simple theme takes us on an adventure. This theme came to me while paddling across Victoria’s inner harbour, where you need to be quick to dodge the ferries and floatplanes. (You may catch some of the whimsy, folly, and fear I’ve experienced there!) From paddleboarding to whitewater kayaking to birch-bark and cedar canoe trips long ago, when the going gets rough, the old saying goes, “just keep paddling”.

The composer

Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911)

Symphony No. 5 (1901-1902)

Part I

1. Trauermarsch. In gemessenem Schritt. Streng. Wie ein Kondukt 
(At a measured pace. Strict. Like a funeral procession.)  

2. Stürmisch bewegt, mit größter Vehemenz 
(Moving stormily, with the greatest vehemence)  

Part II

3. ScherzoKräftig, nicht zu schnell 
(Strong and not too fast)  

Part III

4. AdagiettoSehr langsam 
(Very slow) 

5. Rondo-FinaleAllegro – Allegro giocosoFrisch 

The five movements of the Fifth Symphony are grouped into three parts. In the first part, the opening Trauermarsch is based on two ideas, both featuring the dotted rhythms traditionally associated with funeral marches. Grim, ceremonial fanfares (trumpet) lead to a long, mournful melody (strings) that has been dubbed a “song of sorrow.” The second movement revisits the life-and death struggles of the Trauermarsch in a turbulent new setting. The music is unstable, forever being wrenched in new directions, surging up furiously only to collapse in frustration and exhaustion.

The astonishingly novel Scherzo is explicitly Austrian in character, though without Mahler’s usual unmistakable whiff of parody or caricature. Mahler offers dances both rustic and urbane: the opening theme is a homely ländler, to which a little fugato is appended; later, the violins introduce a slower, gentler Viennese waltz. As the movement unfolds, all three ideas crop up unpredictably, invading each other’s territory, ceaselessly varied, fragmented, and distorted, often in dense, harmonically unstable counterpoint. A series of innocent dances eventually becomes a savage Dance of Death. 

The tender Adagietto has long been misconstrued as funereal or valedictory. In fact, it is a kind of “song without words” apparently conceived as a token of love.  (In the fall of 1901, Mahler sent the score to Alma Schindler, with whom he had recently fallen in love.  They would marry in March 1902). 

The Finale, though episodic, is far more ambitious and powerful than its modest title, Rondo, suggests. Near the end of this good-natured movement, a chorale melody that had been hinted at in the second movement reappears in a blaze of brass—the affirmation to which the symphony has aspired. This accomplished, the work comes quickly to a close with a final display of contrapuntal ingenuity and a few bars of what sounds suspiciously like raucous laughter.

Kevin Bazzana, Toronto Symphony Orchestra