7 September 2018
7 September 2018, 17:30

Mahler, Titan & Totenfeier

Sunday, October 7, 2018, 5:30 pm
Villeron, Grange de Vaulerent

Friday, October 19, 2018, 8pm
Soissons, Cité de la Musique

For the first time in France, Les Siècles replay an original version of Mahler's Symphony No. 1, known as Titan, as well as the symphonic poem Totenfeier from his second symphony, on German instruments from the late 19th century.

MAHLER Symphony No. 1 "Titan"
MAHLER Totenfeier, Symphonic Poem

From his first symphony, Mahler displayed an extraordinary range of sounds. What we may not know is that this Symphony No. 1 has had an incredible history: sketched in 1884 in Cassel, the main part of the first version of the First Symphony (in two parts and five movements) was produced from December 1887 to March 1888. At that time, Mahler, aged 28, was a highly appreciated conductor, assisting Arthur Nikisch at the Leipzig Opera House. The symphony, which according to Mahler must provoke in others "many reasons for astonishment", cannot be played anywhere. This disappointment and a dispute with the director of the Leipzig Opera caused Mahler to resign in the summer of 1888. In September of the same year, he was hired as director of the Royal Hungarian Opera in Budapest. After a considerable success in giving L'Or du Rhin and La Walkyrie, Mahler premiered his symphony there on 20 November 1889 in its original version, completed in Leipzig and presented as a symphonic poem in two parts and five movements.

Together with musicologist Anna Stoll-Knecht, Les Siècles worked on the Budapest 1889, Hamburg 1893 and Weimar 1894 manuscripts in close collaboration with Universal Editions. They will propose a rediscovery of the original symphonic poem "Titan" in 5 movements. This return to the sources on the instruments of the work's creation will allow us to rediscover in a new light this absolute masterpiece of the history of music. 

It was in 1888 that Mahler composed his symphonic poem Totenfeier (Funeral Ceremony), based on an epic poem by Adam Mickiewicz. This work represents a funeral - that of the "Titan" of the First Symphony, which is completed here - and expresses the existential question of the resurrection: does life and death have meaning, and is there life after death? This funeral march, this requiem of lost illusions, was difficult to see the light of day, since in 1891, Mahler tried to seduce his illustrious colleague Hans Von Bülow by presenting him with his symphonic poem, which had already been written for nearly four years, but his reception was not what Mahler had hoped for. The score ends up in a drawer. The symphonic poem Totenfeier no longer existed as the first movement of the Resurrection symphony and was revised on April 29, 1894 to be incorporated into it. This movement undoubtedly remains the heart of the symphony to come.