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While this may be a somewhat tacky SNLC subject during the current economic meltdown, just imagine this theoretical scenario for a moment.  Let's say that your section is approaching the end of the fiscal year, and hasn't spent all of its budget allocation, for whatever oddball reason.  So there are two options from there:

(1) Don't spend the remaining funds, and let the funds go back into the overall budget.
(2) Spend it all, somehow.

In the current economic climate, the fiscally responsible thing to do would be not to spend it, so you can show that you're fiscally sound, financially prudent, etc..  But let's be honest.  Even in bad times like these, practically all of us would take option (2).  The situation would likely be one of "use it or lose it", e.g. on office supplies (you can put air quotes there if so inclined).  The reason for this theme is because of an event that took place 51 years ago today, across the pond, as a result of such a financial situation, and which involves the second element of this SNLC's title.  The event in question?  Well....

The event was a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on March 20, 1959.  This was the program, with the artists:

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911): Symphony No. 8 in Eb ("Symphony of a Thousand")

Joyce Barker, soprano I (Magna peccactrix in Part II)
Beryl Hatt, soprano II (Mater gloriosa in Part II)
Agnes Giebel, soprano III (Una Poenitentium [formerly Gretchen] in Part II)
Kerstin Meyer, contralto I (Mulier Samaritana in Part II)
Helen Watts, contralto II (Maria Aegyptiaca in Part II)
Kenneth Neate, tenor (Doctor Marianis [formerly Faust] in Part II)
Alfred Orda, baritone (Pater ecstaticus in Part II)
Arnold van Mill, bass (Pater profundus in Part II)

BBC Chorus
BBC Choral Society
Goldsmith's Choral Union
Hampstead Choral Society
Emanuel School Boys' Choir
Orpington Junior Singers

Charles Spinks, organ

London Symphony Orchestra
Jascha Horenstein, conductor

It is important to remember that before this performance, there had been only 3 earlier performances of Mahler 8 in London, which is to say probably the whole of the UK.  Mahler was not yet established as a popular classical composer in the UK, even almost 50 years after his death.  Bernard Keeffe, who worked at the BBC in the 1950's, wrote in the BBC Legends CD issue of how one man at the BBC, the composer Robert Simpson, had a big idea to fix the general lack of public consciousness about the music of Mahler:

"In 1958 Robert Simpson, then a senior producer in the Music Department, persuaded the BBC to mount a complete cycle of the symphonies for the centenary year of 1960 and asked me to look after some of the performances."

Citation: Bernard Keeffe, Notes to BBC Legends issue of Mahler Symphony No. 8 (BBCL 4001-7)

Keeffe then tells of how the March 20, 1959 concert got planned, which is where the pre-flip intro theme comes in (emphasis mine):

"In October 1958 an unexpectedly rich bonus dropped into our hands.  Howard Newby, Controller of the Third Programme, found that by the end of the financial year in April 1959 he was likely to underspend his budget allocation by a substantial amount.  Rather than risk a cut in the following year, he wanted a costly enterprise to mop up the surplus; and so he turned to music, top of the league among big spenders."

Interestingly, there are some discrepancies in Keeffe's memory of the 3 prior London/UK performances, vs. what Donald Mitchell, the British music scholar, has documented:

Keeffe: (a) 1913, (b) 1936 (both conducted by Sir Henry Wood), (c) 1948 (conducted by Sir Adrian Boult)

Mitchell: (a) April 15, 1930, (b) February 9, 1938 (both conducted by Wood), (c) February 10, 1948 (conducted by Boult)

On (c), both gentlemen tally.  Although I cite Keeffe's reminiscences happily here, I do have to note that inconsistency.  On that point, my inclination is to go with Mitchell on the first two Mahler 8 performances in London.  The big picture, of course, where both agree is that there were so few prior live performances of this work.  Besides reasons of artistic taste and preference, in the case of Mahler 8, the other reason for the very few prior performances is practical, as implied by the symphony's nickname, which by the way Mahler himself did not sanction, but which was pretty accurate for the world premiere in terms of the number of musicians involved.  (These days, having 300-400 musicians is just fine for it.)

Mitchell further pays tribute to Wood and Boult, in the context of conducting Mahler 8, as well as music generally:

"...neither man was a virtuoso 'great' conductor in the sense that the term is used today.  They were, rather pioneer interpreters and above all sources of information, through their performances, about a great mass of music which they felt the public ought to know about, to hear.  Perhaps the verdict would be adverse; but at least it would be reached on the basis of an experience of the music."

Citation: Donald Mitchell, "The Mahler Renaissance in England", from The Mahler Companion, ed. Donald Mitchell and Andrew Nicholson.  Oxford University Press, p. 556 (2002).

One other point that Mitchell made is that 2 of the 3 pre-1959 UK performances were under the auspices of the BBC:

"The assembling of such large forces could not have been done without the backing, financial and administrative, of a powerful broadcasting organization; and as we shall see, the BBC was itself to play an indispensable part in the dissemination of Mahler's works among a broad listening public."

Citation: Mitchell, ibid., p. 555.

This performance circulated underground for a while on pirate (arrr!!!) LPs, but was eventually issued "legitimately" on BBC Legends, as noted above.  Several on-line reviews of the recording are provided for your reading pleasure (or skipping over):

(1) Deryk Barker, SoundStage!

(2) Robert Benson, Classical CD Review

(3) Tony Duggan, Music Web International (general review of Mahler 8 recordings)

You can access portions of this recording from YouTube as follows:

(1) Part I (beginning)
(2) Part I (middle)
(3) Part I (conclusion)
(4) Part II (beginning)
(5) Part II (2nd excerpt)
(6) Part II (3rd excerpt)
(7) Part II (4th excerpt)
(8) Part II (5th excerpt)
(9) Part II (conclusion)

Keeffe also noted about the preparation for the concert:

"....the only possible date which gave the choirs time to learn their parts and keep within the financial year was 20 March.  Since this was a Friday, the largely amateur choirs would not be able to take place in the customary general rehearsal in the morning."

Furthermore (emphasis mine):

"Incredibly there was no rehearsal in the Royal Albert Hall with all participants present.  This might have been the reason why, when I went to wish 'Hals- und Beinbruch', I found Jascha rather tense and nervous.

'No, it's not that', he replied, 'this is my first time with this symphony; I face the greatest artistic challenge of my career.'"

In other words, the only time that all these musicians performed the work together was the actual concert itself.  Deryk Barker also noted that this was not only Horenstein's first time conducting Mahler 8, but his only time conducting Mahler 8.

This shows that you can sometimes achieve something wonderful for less-than-pure motives ;) .  With that, it's Saturday night, and self is about to go to see an octogenarian pianist and conductor who may well be past his best.  But since 3CM is a loser, he's going to catch the show anyway.  That aside, it's time for the usual SNLC protocol, namely your loser stories of the week below.....

Originally posted to chingchongchinaman on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 04:09 PM PDT.

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