One of the largest-scale choral works in the classical concert repertoire, Mahler’s Eighth Symphony was performed by more than 1,000 musicians and singers at its premiere in 1910.
Now, 105 years later the combined choirs of the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, the Bath Minerva Choir, the Bournemouth Symphony Youth Chorus and the Amadeus Orchestra, with a team of eight outstanding international soloists, are to perform the work at Lighthouse, Poole’s centre for the arts on 23 July.
“This will be an event of supreme artistic importance and excitement,” says conductor Gavin Carr. “It’s a piece of two parts, but both deal in the theme of exaltation – exaltation of our spirits in life, and exaltation of the soul after death.
“Part I is an immense setting of the old Latin Hymn ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’, which many of us know as ‘Come Holy Ghost, our souls inspire’: there is quite simply nothing more grand in the whole repertoire, with massive double-fugues and triumphant choral shouts that take you to the most extreme realms of excitement and grandeur.
“Part II is a setting of the last scene of Goethe’s play, Faust, so it’s in German (we will provide translations, of course, in the programme booklet). It concerns the ascent of Faust’s soul after all its troubles on Earth into the realms of heaven, and it is the most blissed-out depiction in music of those realms.
“The amount of sound involved in Part I is simply majestic and I expect all of us to be lifted on the energy and carried to great heights. Part II has many more contemplative moments of incredible delicacy, but ends of course with a blazing ‘Chorus Mysticus’. There are many passages that are almost too beautiful to bear and Mahler knew he was working at the very height of his creative inspiration as he was writing.”
The first completely choral symphony ever written, Mahler conceived the Eighth as a “new symphonic universe” and was utterly convinced of its ground-breaking nature, calling it the grandest thing he had ever done.