“I play The Song of the Earth a lot. It is incredibly beautiful,” wrote Anton Webern in a letter to his colleague Alban Berg. Gustav Mahler himself considered this work to be his most personal composition. Performers, researchers and listeners also agree with this opinion, emphasizing the great power of expression enchanted in sounds by the Austrian composer.
Mahler's piece, one of the masterpieces of late Romanticism, will be presented at the National Forum of Music by outstanding performers. The mezzo-soprano part will be sung by the outstanding Czech singer Magdalena Kožená. The artist performs on the most important opera stages around the world, incl. at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and for many years has been associated with a recording contract with the Deutsche Grammophon label. Tenor songs will be performed by the English singer Andrew Staples, known e.g. from performances at Covent Garden. Orchestre des Champs-Élysées will play, an ensemble founded in 1991 that performs each piece on copies of instruments from the era in which the composer lived. The concert will be hosted by the ensemble's artistic director, who has held this position since 2010, the outstanding Belgian conductor Philippe Herreweghe.
Mahler was inspired to write A Song of the Earth from a collection of poetry entitled The Chinese Flute. It contained German paraphrases of poems by Old Chinese poets from the 8th and 9th centuries prepared by Hans Bethge. The mood of these poems and the existential themes taken up in them strongly touched the artist, who chose seven pieces and based on them created a completely unique composition in the history of music, being a synthesis of two genres - a symphony and a cycle of songs. The origin of the poetry influenced Mahler's use of the pentatonic scale, associated with the music of this region, which sounds exotic to our ears. This music is exceptionally colorful at the same time, but also orchestrated exceptionally sparingly. The episodes in which the entire orchestra plays are rare, but there are many moments in which the solo voice is accompanied by individual instruments. The work consists of six parts: Toast to an earthly feast, Lonely in autumn, About youth, About beauty, Drunk in spring and Farewell. The odd, dynamic and witty parts are performed by a tenor, while the even, slow and melancholy parts are performed by mezzo-soprano. The Song of the Earth, however, is a unique piece not only in terms of its form and orchestration. Above all, it is a very moving work that leaves no one indifferent.