The Sixth Symphony is one of Gustav Mahler’s most extreme works. Not only its instrumentation – exceeding anything ever composed before – but also its expressive intensity place intense demands on interpreters, especially in those moments of virtually brute force with which Mahler reflects the brutality of the approaching 20th century. The conductor of the evening is Kirill Petrenko, General Music Director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich.
Symphony No. 6
Gustav Mahler composed his Sixth Symphony from 1903 to 1905. After conducting the work’s premiere in Essen in 1906, Mahler undertook to revise the musical text, leaving the question open as to the order in which the two middle movements are to be played. With its four-movement structure and a first movement whose exposition is to be repeated as prescribed by the composer, the Sixth Symphony superficially follows the classical form, unlike any of Mahler’s other symphonies. The composer was nevertheless convinced that the piece would “pose riddles only to be solved by a generation which has assimilated and digested my first five symphonies.”
Indeed, because of its complex movement structure and innovative expressive depth, it was the Sixth Symphony that has given future generations the most difficulty. The Finale places particular demands on both musicians and audience: its abrupt ending, which throws into question the course of the movement until that point, has led to the epithet Tragic being conferred upon the symphony. Mahler’s Sixth Symphony will be conducted at these concerts by Kirill Petrenko, a welcome guest with the Berliner Philharmoniker since his debut in 2006.
Kirill Petrenko was born in Omsk in Siberia in 1972. When he was eighteen, he and his family moved to Vorarlberg in Austria. His training as a conductor with Uros Lajovic at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna was followed by a period as assistant and Kapellmeister at the Volksoper, also in Vienna. After this, he was general music director in Meiningen from 1999 – 2002, where in 2001 he had a particular triumph with his production of Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen, directed by Christine Mielitz and Alfred Hrdlicka. From 2002 until 2007 he was again general music director, this time leading the Komische Oper in Berlin, where he gained an excellent reputation particularly as a result of his development work with the orchestra and ensemble. He has been invited to conduct in many major opera houses, including the State Operas in Dresden, Munich and Vienna, the Maggio Musicale in Florence, the Royal Opera House in London, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Bastille Opera in Paris and the Salzburg Festival. In 2009 he celebrated successes with Pfitzner’s Palestrina at the Oper Frankfurt and with Janáček’s Jenůfa at the Bavarian State Opera, where he took over as general music director in September 2013. In the concert hall, Kirill Petrenko has conducted major orchestras world-wide such as the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Philharmonic Orchestra in London, Los Angeles and Israel. He made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in February 2006 with works by Bartók and Rachmaninov; most recently, he performed pieces by Stravinsky, Stephan and Skriabin with the orchestra in December 2012.