Reflections on Mahler in Edinburgh

The Australian Chamber Orchestra performed at the renowned Edinburgh International Festival in 2016. Artistic Director Richard Tognetti and ACO Principal Violin Satu Vänskä reflect on the experience before an Australian tour of the same music.

In August of 2016, the Australian Chamber Orchestra embraced a drop in temperature from the English summer, and performed Mahler’s monumental Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) at Edinburgh International Festival in chillier Scotland.

Artistic Director Richard Tognetti reflects:

“It was a tour with Weimar and Barry H and it was hot or was it?

“It felt hot. Stuart Skelton was on fire. But it’s not all burning passion in Das Lied.

“There’s dread. There’s drunkenness... drunk on life-ness.

“But the main thing is the perfume. It’s music that leaves strange scents in the air. They linger - oddly and becomingly. It’s a foreign world that Mahler invites us into; and makes us feel at home.”

At the time, The Guardian (UK), reviewed the performance. Soloist Stuart Skelton was praised for “blazed and bellowed” and soloist Alice Coote for “supple, glimmering foils”.

For Scottish newspaper, The Herald, the performance was “Phenomenal… [with] all the beauty, the pain and the futility.”

Lucky for us, Stuart Skelton is returning to this profound piece of music with Richard Tognetti and the ACO, and he will be joined by brilliant Australian mezzo-soprano Catherine Carby, for an Australian tour this May.

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ACO Principal Violin Satu Vanska has been looking forward to touring the work closer to home since joining Richard and the Orchestra to perform in Edinburgh:

“It’s a special occasion for us to play this monumental, epic piece by Mahler. We dreamed of bringing it to Australia ever since we performed it at Edinburgh Festival.

“I love getting lost in the spell of the fantasy and the profoundness of the music; 60 minutes of magic.

It was a magical experience. Just a few months ago I caught up with a musician who was on stage with us in that performance and we were reminiscing about how there were moments when we were all so well in sync there was nothing that could have ‘gone wrong’ or come between the music and the moment. These are the sort of performances you relish years later.

She describes The Song of the Earth as “quintessential Mahler, which contains the pain of living, the joy of a drunkard in spring, of beauty, the farewell to life. Stuff that makes the world go around.

“I can’t wait for this strange and wondrous musical landscape to descend on us with the boy from The Shire,” Richard says. “That’s Stuart… yep, Shire Boy through and through.”

We can’t wait either.

Stuart Skelton and Catherine Carby star in Mahler's Song of the Earth, directed by Richard Tognetti, touring to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra. Click here for tickets.