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Classical Notes

The young person's side at the orchestra

Posted at 5:34 PM on April 2, 2006 by Don Lee

“That was hot.” Someone behind me said that last night when the Minnesota Orchestra trumpets brought the middle movement of Mahler’s First Symphony to a blistering end. I didn't turn around to look, but he sounded like someone younger than 40. On Saturday night there were more 30-somethings in the hall than I remember seeing at any Minnesota Orchestra concert I’ve attended.

My friends and I guessed that Mahler had to be the reason. One said the heart-on-sleeve expressiveness of Mahler’s music, with its bold, dramatic statements, is a draw for the younger-than-usual concert-goer. (In fact, as the program notes pointed out, Mahler’s original title for the first part of this symphony was “Days of Youth.”) I agreed, adding that Mahler sometimes shows a compellingly loopy side—clarinets careening beyond control and violins madly waltzing out of orbit. The cachet of the name is yet another draw. Not only can Mahler be “hot,” he is also cool, and has been since Leonard Bernstein made him so 40 years ago.

What do you think? Does the idea that Mahler is young person’s music make sense to anyone else?