Performance Friday, April 17, 2015 | 8 PM

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
The original version of the finale of Mahler's Sixth Symphony included three hammer strokes of fate that presaged tragedies in the composer's life: the diagnosis of a heart condition that would prove fatal, the loss of his position at the Vienna State Opera, and the death of his daughter. Superstitious, Mahler eventually removed the third stroke. But he also included a magnificently melodic Adagio and a rapturous theme that represents his wife, Alma.


  • Boston Symphony Orchestra
    Andris Nelsons, Music Director and Conductor


  • MAHLER Symphony No. 6

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. Please note that there will be no late seating.


  • Andris Nelsons

    Andris Nelsons begins his tenure as the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Ray and Maria Stata Music Director with the 2014-2015 season, during which he leads the orchestra in 10 programs at Symphony Hall, repeating three of them at Carnegie Hall. Mr. Nelsons made his BSO debut at Carnegie Hall in March 2011, conducting Mahler's Symphony No. 9; he made his Tanglewood debut in July 2012, leading both the BSO and the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra as part of Tanglewood's 75th Anniversary Gala (a concert available on DVD and Blu-ray, and telecast nationwide on PBS). He is the 15th music director in the history of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. His first compact disc with the BSO (also available as a download)--live recordings of Wagner's Tannhäuser Overture and Sibelius's Symphony No. 2, from concert performances given this past fall at Symphony Hall in Boston--was released on BSO Classics in November.

    Maestro Nelsons has been critically acclaimed as music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra since assuming that post in 2008; he remains at the helm of that orchestra until summer 2015. Over the next few seasons he will continue collaborations with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Philharmonia Orchestra. He is a regular guest at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; the Vienna State Opera; and the Metropolitan Opera. In summer 2014, he returned to the Bayreuth Festival to conduct Lohengrin, a production by Hans Neuenfels that Mr. Nelsons premiered there in 2010.

    Born in Riga in 1978 into a family of musicians, Andris Nelsons began his career as a trumpeter in the Latvian National Opera Orchestra before studying conducting. He was principal conductor of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie in Herford, Germany, from 2006 to 2009 and music director of the Latvian National Opera from 2003 to 2007. Mr. Nelsons is the subject of a recent DVD from Orfeo, a documentary film entitled Andris Nelsons: Genius on Fire.

    More Info


Mahler's Symphony No. 6 (Allegro energico, ma non troppo)
Boston Symphony Orchestra | Seiji Ozawa, Conductor
Universal International Music

At a Glance

Following three symphonies involving voice, Mahler’s Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh symphonies are a purely instrumental trilogy linked by a renewed interest in counterpoint and a new and highly refined treatment of the orchestra. Mahler wrote the Sixth over the course of the two summers of 1903 and 1904 during one of the most idyllic periods of his life. He was a leading conductor of his age; his Fifth Symphony had had a triumphant premiere; he was happily married and had two young daughters. Yet the Sixth is arguably his darkest, most emotionally fraught work, and the only one of his symphonies to end forcefully in the minor mode with no hint of relief. It is in four movements, the first an intense, march-infused, 24-minute span introducing harmonic relationships that obtain throughout the piece. Of particular importance is a simple two-chord motif moving from A major to A minor. Within the storm, though, Mahler gives a glimpse of bucolic Austrian country life, cowbells heard clanking in the distance.

Mahler himself vacillated as to the published order of the two middle movements; each conductor must make the decision anew. On one hand, the Scherzo can be heard as a continuing development of the first movement’s materials; on the other, the Andante moderato provides a welcome respite from the opening movement’s intensity. The Finale ranges widely in tempo and mood, recalling moments from earlier in the piece, sometimes suggesting a turn toward reconciliation, but ultimately crashing back to the depths. Mahler originally composed three “hammer strokes” for critical moments of this movement; as his wife, Alma, recounted, for Mahler this movement represented “the hero, on whom fall three blows of fate, the last of which fells him.” But the superstitious composer omitted the third blow in the 1906 premiere.
Program Notes
This performance is part of Great American Orchestras I.