IAGMR Symposium, November 2020: Performances from the Royal Academy of Music

The inaugural research event held by the IAGMR on November 4, 2020, was prefaced by this performance given by members of the Royal Academy of Music in London, featuring the soprano soloist Danni O’Neill and conducted by Ed Liebrecht.

Part of the IAGMR’s ethos is both to focus on less familiar Austrian and German repertoire, especially that by female composers, and to consider well-known repertoire in new ways. This performance does both of these things.

First, it includes three songs by Alma Mahler, wife of Gustav, who in her early years studied composition with Josef Labor and Zemlinsky, and was beginning to produce vocal settings of some of her favourite modernist poetry – for example, the sensuous and erotic works of Rainer Maria Rilke, Otto Bierbaum, and Richard Dehmel (whose poetic recitations she attended) – until, at Gustav’s insistence, she put aside her artistic ambitions in order to conform to the prevailing social dictates of a ‘dutiful’ early twentieth-century spouse.

Secondly, the ensemble performs Ed Liebrecht’s chamber arrangement of the first movement of Gustav’s 10th Symphony. Reduced-orchestra arrangements of Mahler’s music form a venerable tradition that goes back to Schoenberg’s Society for Private Musical Performance formed in 1918. Schoenberg himself produced such versions of Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and (unfinished) Das Lied von der Erde, while his student Erwin Stein arranged the 4th Symphony. Here, Liebrecht’s version reveals different textural, and indeed historical, aspects of Mahler’s late symphonic movement, especially in the allegro sections which take on a more acerbic, modernist hue.

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