Mahler: Symphony No. 5


The Philharmonia Orchestra's blurb warns that Mahler's Fifth Symphony is ambitious, complex, and misunderstood. "How delightfully pretentious, how high-brow," I said, triumphantly clicking through to purchase tickets, fully prepared to spend an hour and a half in a state of utter confusion. "I'll bring the wife too, she'll hate it!"

To start things off, we had some Wagner: the Prelude from Act I of Parsifal. "Wagner, he's for children. I've seen his anime," I thought. It was a suitable compliment to the main event.

Symphony No. 5) is very cinematic. It switches gears quite frequently, making it like an action flick. Think Batman. A very high-brow Batman. From the dramatic, percussive opening, the basic game plan is one of short pleasurable segments interspersed between loud, bombastic bits in which you are forced over a series of emotional precipices. Anyone who has cohabited will know what this is about.

Speaking of women, I was distracted by a pair of young, raven-haired lesbians sitting a bit further ahead of us, both of whom seemed to be enjoying the performance and each other. "How lovely for them," I mused, "to find someone else who is not only a lesbian, but also likes Mahler."

I imagine them having a row in a tiny London flat, hurling plates and crockery at each other. They pause to catch their breath, then they are back at it, scratching and tearing each others hair out. One of them locks herself in the loo. The other tiptoes into the kitchen to eat the last Yoplait, even though she knows full well that its being saved for a special moment. Then they are at it again!

It's dangerous being a lesbian. It's dangerous listening to Mahler too. The wife loved it.

The Philharmonia Orchestra performed Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5 on the 17th of May, 2012, at the Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall.

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