In 36 years of Mahler chasing, I cannot remember a week of more intensive performance than the one ahead – with the singular exception of the Mahler fest that Riccardo Chailly directed in Amsterdam in 1995. But that was a festival dedicated to Mahler; this is just the BBC Proms.
In the week ahead at the Royal Albert Hall, and online the world over, you can hear Mahler’s third symphony conducted by Donald Runnicles (4 Aug), the fourth and fifth from Valery Gergiev (Aug 5) and the seventh from Ingo Metzmacher (10 Aug). This is, I suspect, a happy accident of planning and availability in an anniversary season shared with other composers, none of whom is projected with the same intensity.
Why Mahler? Well you may ask. The week ahead offers the world an unequalled opportunity to immerse itself in the works of one of the makers of modern civilisation.
The BBC may be criticised for many indulgences and shortcomings, sometimes justly and always predictably by the Murdoch-owned media. Nevertheless, when it comes to signposting key figures in human evolution, the BBC’s instincts are usually in the right place – whether the subject is Darwin, Einstein, Shakespeare or Sherlock Holmes.
In Mahler’s case, it was the BBC in 1959-60 that commissioned the first post-war symphonic cycle and which, today, is extending the experience to a borderless universe.