“A quartet for string orchestra! That sounds strange to you. I already know all the objections that will be raised: ruination of intimacy, of individuality. But that is an error. What I intend is only an ideal representation of the quartet. Chamber music is primarily written for the living room. It is really enjoyed only by the performers. The four ladies and gentlemen who sit at their music stands are also the audience towards which this music turns. If chamber music is transferred to the concert hall, this intimacy is already lost. But even more is lost. In a large space the four voices are lost and do not speak to the listener with the power that the composer wanted to give them. I give them this power by strengthening the voices. I unravel the expansion that is dormant in the voices and give the sounds wings.” Thus Mahler in an open letter in the Viennese newspaper Die Wage in January 1899. On 14 January, during his first season as chief conductor of the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra, he was to conduct the premiere of his arrangement for string orchestra of Beethoven’s String Quartet opus 95 ‘Quartetto serioso’. And what Mahler had anticipated did indeed occur during this concert: after the first movement loud cries of boo erupted, countered by fervent applause from Mahler’s supporters. Despite his deep conviction, Mahler never performed his arrangement again. His score and the orchestral parts were found in the late 1980s in the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra archive. The arrangement was first published in 1990, and since then Mahler’s version of the ’Quartetto serioso’ has had a permanent place on concert stages around the world.Download booklet
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