Vancouver Sun

Eight is the magic num­ber

Choir, sym­phony present ‘light’ ver­sion of Mahler’s un­con­ven­tional Eighth

- DAVID GOR­DON DUKE Entertainment · Arts · Music · Classical Music · Gustav Mahler · Vancouver · Johann Sebastian Bach · Toronto · Faust · Bach family · Symphony No. 8

Mount­ing Mahler’s Eighth Sym­phony (of­ten called The Sym­phony of a Thou­sand) is a mon­u­men­tal un­der­tak­ing. But that’s ex­actly what the Van­cou­ver Bach Choir and the West Coast Sym­phony have in mind.

For the choir, the sym­phony is a known en­tity: ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Nina Hor­vath says this will be the 22nd time the ensem­ble has sung the piece. How­ever, this will be the first per­for­mance of the score by the West Coast Sym­phony.

Bu­jar Lla­paj, prin­ci­pal con­duc­tor since 2008, has been work­ing with the com­mu­nity orches­tra for the past few weeks and Marisa Gae­tanne has been prep­ping the 60-voice chil­dren’s choir be­fore con­duc­tor Les­lie Dala takes over for fi­nal com­bined re­hearsals.

Mahler’s pop­u­lar­ity is fairly re­cent. In the years fol­low­ing his death in 1911, per­for­mances of his mas­sive sym­phonies were rarely per­formed; the Eighth, es­pe­cially, was more talked about than heard. Things changed when the Mahler boom started up in the 1960s, but a com­mu­nity col­lab­o­ra­tion like that be­tween the VBC and the WCS is still a real oc­ca­sion.

Dala is no stranger to big opera and big or­a­to­rios, yet there’s some­thing sober­ing about the very idea of do­ing Mahler’s No. 8. For him, it’s a piece with spe­cial res­o­nance.

“Mahler’s Eighth was a lifechang­ing piece for me. I sang in the Cana­dian pre­mière in Toronto when I was just 12, when I had no idea mu­sic of this power and scope ex­isted. So it’s a piece that im­printed on me very early. I be­came ob­sessed with Mahler. It’s a com­plete drug — there’s noth­ing like it,” says Dala, who played har­mo­nium dur­ing the grand Olympic year per­for­mance of the Eighth with the Van­cou­ver Bach Choir and the Van­cou­ver Sym­phony Orches­tra.

“This is my first time con­duct­ing,” he says with pal­pa­ble ex­cite­ment.

The un­con­ven­tional Eighth is in two parts: a short­ish first move­ment that takes its text from an old Latin hymn, Veni Creator spir­i­tus (Come, creator spirit) and then a longer, more oper­atic sec­tion based on the con­clud­ing pas­sages of Goethe’s Faust. The pac­ing is anoma­lous, but all part of a well thought-out whole.

“We’re do­ing it with­out an in­ter­mis­sion,” says Dala, who’s of the opin­ion that a gap be­tween the two sec­tions stops the mu­sic’s flow and blunts its im­pact. Much of that power comes from lav­ish re­sources: eight soloists plus choir, chil­dren’s choir and a large orches­tra. As far as the orches­tra is con­cerned, there will be a note of prac­ti­cal­ity.

“Mahler Eight is some­thing the WCS have been want­ing to do but couldn’t see how to make it pos­si­ble,” says Dala.

“We found a re­duced score that takes ev­ery­thing down to triple (rather than quadru­ple) winds, which we de­cided was doable. We call it Mahler Eight Light — with­out all the calo­ries.”

Even so, there will be about 250 per­form­ers on the Or­pheum stage. With all the solo parts cast lo­cally, it will be a homegrown event.

“We couldn’t have done it with­out the Bach fam­ily of choirs,” adds Dala.

If the Eighth has been a touch­stone work in Dala’s life, he’s hop­ing it will also be one for a mem­ber of his fam­ily.

“My young son An­dreas is al­most 12 and in the Bach youth choir, so he will be singing,” says an ob­vi­ously proud Dala. “He’s lov­ing the mu­sic; I can’t wait un­til he hears the whole thing come to­gether. It’s great that he will be ex­posed to it as this time in his life.” For ex­tra in­sight into the VBC’s long­time en­gage­ment with Mahler, check out van­cou­ver­bach­choir.com

 ??  ?? Prin­ci­pal con­duc­tor Bu­jar Lla­paj, above, has been work­ing with the West Coast Sym­phony on Mahler’s Eighth Sym­phony as the lo­cal Bach youth choir gets in tune to join in. It will all come to­gether when con­duc­tor Les­lie Dala leads about 250 per­form­ers,...
Prin­ci­pal con­duc­tor Bu­jar Lla­paj, above, has been work­ing with the West Coast Sym­phony on Mahler’s Eighth Sym­phony as the lo­cal Bach youth choir gets in tune to join in. It will all come to­gether when con­duc­tor Les­lie Dala leads about 250 per­form­ers,...

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