Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of seeing the Berlin Philharmonic perform Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 in E minor at Carnegie Hall. This concert kicked off their first-ever USA tour under the tutelage of conductor Kirill Petrenko. This tour includes performances in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Ann Arbor, and Naples, Florida. It has been a dream of mine to see the Berlin Philharmonic perform live for many years, since they are some of the best musicians in the world.
This was one of the most satisfying orchestral performances I have ever seen, with every section perfectly in sync. The collective sound of the orchestra was so captivating and incredibly detailed. It filled the hall beautifully. The winds and brass sections were very thrilling and so well balanced. The string sections played as if they were one instrument, matching bow speed and sound. The Concertmaster, Krzysztof Polonek, played his solos with precision.
Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 is quite an interesting piece. This was the first time I ever heard it live. Compared to Mahler's 6th Symphony, this Symphony displays his use of progressive tonality which means that the piece ended in a different key than it began. For those who don't know music theory, that means that the opening chords were different than the ending chords, giving it the feeling of arriving at a "new destination" rather than returning "home."
I found Mahler's use of instrumentation unconventionally interesting. Not only does he write for the typical orchestral instruments, but he also features cowbell, guitar and mandolin. The guitar and mandolin parts were performed by one of the violinists in the orchestra, which I found very impressive.
My favorite movement was the third movement, titled “Scherzo.” Scherzo means joke, and I did find this movement to be rather humorous. It was somewhat dark and mysterious, but also seemingly made fun of a Viennese waltz. This movement also featured many viola solos, played by the recently appointed Principal Violist, Diyang Mei. His solos were beautifully played. In every string section, the Principals' solos were clear and projected, and it never felt as though the orchestra’s sound needed to be reduced. To say that the Berlin Philharmonic did Mahler’s 7th Symphony justice would be an understatement.
Grace Collins and the StringTime Family