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Gerald Carpenter: Sunday Symphony Focuses on Mahler

The lone work for the weekend program is his Symphony No. 5 in C-Minor

The Santa Barbara Symphony, under the baton of music director Nir Kabaretti, will perform Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 in C-Minor at 3 p.m. Sunday at The Granada, 1214 State St.

The symphony is the only work on the program, and though it is one of the composer’s shortest, I doubt anyone will complain that there wasn’t enough music.

Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, composed in the summer of 1903, marks a decisive turning point in his creative process. The previous four symphonies were all based on thematic material drawn largely from his song cycles The Youth’s Magic Horn and Songs of a Wayfarer, plus the uncyclical Rückert Songs.

Mahler was the greatest songwriter since Franz Schubert, and, like Schubert, he mined his songs for themes for other works — Schubert, mostly for his instrumental chamber works; Mahler for his symphonies. Although the Fifth Symphony abounds in passages of haunting and exquisite lyricism, it is not the lyricism of the vocal line. Gone, too, are the overarching literary or philosophical programs of the first four.

My own, admittedly personal, take on the Fifth is that it moves from a mood of darkest pessimism (Mahler was a great fan of Arthur Schopenhauer) — a world of bitter satire that points the way to Wozzeck and Lulu — through an ironic and mysterious tour of Vienna in 1900, through a frenetic scherzo of jaunty busyness, into a spacious and heartbreaking lagoon of sublime resignation, ending — and no one could have been more surprised than the composer himself — on a note of guarded, though unmistakable optimism. It must have been to describe such an act of sustained inspiration that the expression tour de force was coined.

Tickets are available from the Granada box office or 805.899.2222, or click here to purchase online.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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