Gustav Mahler

Throwback Thursdays: Mahler’s Adagietto

In a new series during lockdown we invite you to discover more about the music we have performed with Firebird… 

Today we explore the exquisite Adagietto for Strings by Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911). 

This was filmed at St George’s Hanover Square on Thursday 22 October 2020 with London Firebird Orchestra conducted by George Jackson.

George Jackson explains more about the music…

Gustav Mahler wrote his monumental Symphony No 5 throughout 1901 and 1902. The symphony, in five movements, takes over an hour to perform and its scope and emotional landscape are vast. 

The fourth movement of it, the Adagietto, is often performed as a standalone piece – in fact it was performed for the first time in Britain 36 years before the first British performance of the entire symphony.

The Adagietto is perhaps Mahler’s most famous composition and is the most frequently performed of all his works. It is based on a love poem that the composer wrote for his new wife, Alma:

Wie ich Dich liebe, Du meine Sonne,

ich kann mit Worten Dir’s nicht sagen.

Nur meine Sehnsucht kann ich Dir klagen

und meine Liebe, meine Wonne!

In which way I love you, my sunbeam,

I cannot tell you with words.

Only my longing, my love and my bliss

can I with anguish declare.

Mahler marked the score “very slow”, “soulful” and “with the most heartfelt sentiment”.

It is music of great delicacy, reducing the orchestra down to harp and strings. Beginning very quietly, this music is quickly enthused with longing.

Arching, graceful melodies unfold with a bittersweet intensity, rise gradually to a soaring climax, and finally fall back to a peaceful close.

Watch the complete performance…