Andrzej Boreyko was born in St. Petersburg where, at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory, he studied conducting and composition with Elisabeta Kudriavtseva and Alexander Dmitriev. While with the Jenaer Philharmonie, Boreyko received awards for the most innovative concert programming in three consecutive seasons from the German Music Critics Association, Deutscher Musikverleger-Verband. Boreyko serves as Music Director of the Orchestre National de Belgique and the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker. He is Music Director Designate of the Naples Philharmonic and he holds the position of Principal Guest Conductor of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Euskadi. Boreyko has previously held positions as Chief Conductor of the Jenaer Philharmonie, where he is now Honorary Conductor, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Berner Symphonieorchester, the Hamburger Symphoniker and the Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra. He was previously Principal Guest Conductor of the Vancouver Symphony and Music Director of the Ural State Philharmonic Orchestra.
Peter Lieberson composed Neruda Songs in 2005 for his wife, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, an admired mezzo-soprano, known for her intensely emotional performances. The piece is a song-cycle for mezzo-soprano and orchestra set to the poetry of Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet, diplomat and politician, Pablo Neruda. The first performance took place at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, on May 20, 2005, with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson the as soloist, and Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Boston premiere took place in November of the same year, with James Levine conducting the Boston Symphony. The Neruda Songs were Lieberson’s last collaboration with his wife, as in 2006, she passed away from breast cancer. Lorraine Hunt Lieberson performed and recorded the work shortly before her death, and she was honoured with a 2008 Grammy for Best Classical Vocal Performance and the composition was awarded the University of Louisville's 2008 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.
Peter Lieberson provided the following description of the composition, “I discovered the love poems of Pablo Neruda by chance in the Albuquerque airport... As I glanced through the poems I immediately thought that I must set some of these for Lorraine. Years later the opportunity came when the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra co-commissioned this piece from me, to be written specifically for Lorraine. Each of the five poems that I set to music seemed to me to reflect a different face in love’s mirror. The first poem, “If your eyes were not the colour of the moon,” is pure appreciation of the beloved. The second, “Love, love, the clouds went up the tower of the sky like triumphant washerwomen,” is joyful and also mysterious in its evocation of nature’s elements: fire, water, wind, and luminous space. The third poem, “Don’t go far off, not even for a day,” reflects the anguish of love, the fear and pain of separation. The fourth poem, “And now you’re mine. Rest with your dream in my dream,” is complex in its emotional tone. Finally, the fifth poem, “My love, if I die and you don’t,” is very sad and peaceful at the same time... In truth, there is no real death to love nor even a birth: “It is like a long river, only changing lands, and changing lips.”
Gustav Mahler composed Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) between 1908 and 1909. The work is a composition for two voices and orchestra, which was described as a symphony when it was published. The piece is comprised of six songs for two singers who alternate singing the movements. Sadly, Mahler did not live to hear the first performance, which took place six months after his death. The premiere was given by his former assistant, Bruno Walter, in Munich on November 20, 1911. Walter chose two American singers as the soloists, William Miller and Charles Cahier, and he presided over the premiere of Mahler's Ninth Symphony, in Vienna the following June.
Early in 1907, Gustav Mahler was given a volume of verses translated by Hans Bethge, Die chinesische Flöte (The Chinese Flute) derived from Chinese folk stories. In July, his daughter Maria died of scarlet fever and diphtheria, and he learnt that he was suffering from a severe heart condition. The melancholy verses of the German translations spoke to Mahler with singular urgency and he began to sketch the verses into songs. The work pulled him out of despondency and the following summer, as he worked on Das Lied he wrote to Bruno Walter, “If I am to find my way back to myself, I have got to accept the horrors of loneliness, since you do not know what has gone on and is going on within me. It is, assuredly, no hypochondriac fear of death, as you suppose. I have long known that I have got to die… Without trying to explain or describe something for which there probably are no words, I simply say that with a single fell stroke I have lost any calm and peace of mind I ever achieved. I stand vis-à-vie de rien, and now, at the end of my life, have to begin to learn to walk and stand.”
It was clear to Mahler that he was not composing an ordinary song cycle but something grander and more cohesive, “a symphony in songs.” In the end, he went as far as annotating the score “a symphony for tenor and contralto (or baritone) and orchestra.” Thus, Das Lied von der Erde is not among Mahler’s numbered symphonies. It would have been his true ninth, but because Beethoven and Bruckner had famously died after composing their ninths, he was superstitious. He thought that by not assigning a number to the symphony after the eighth he might cheat the gods, and when he finished the symphony, which he proclaimed to be the ninth, he triumphantly told Alma that it was of course “really the tenth,” and that the danger was past. Nonetheless, the gods were not deceived by Mahler’s bookkeeping, and death claimed him as he set to work on his tenth.
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator