classical music

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The Independent Culture
So secure is the place of Gustav Mahler among the icons of composing that he seems to have been born to it. Yet you don't have to be much older than 40 to remember when he was right out on the fringe. Huge, unwieldy, turn-of-the-century symphonies that lasted half the night - if an orchestra was ever rash enough to tackle one.

And now? Well, the CD catalogues tell the story. A few visionary pioneers persisted and by the Sixties, when the music came out of copyright, their performances had wide enough circulation to make people rethink prejudices. Now anybody can be a Mahler expert, with hundreds of interpretations to choose from. So when the LSO resumes its two-part Mahler Festival next Wednesday at the Barbican Hall, expect it to clean up.

For this half Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the last four symphonies, including the Eighth - still a bit of an "event", because of the large choral forces it needs as well as the usual massive orchestra. Too big in fact for the Barbican, so like most London performances it moves to the Royal Albert Hall as the closing concert on 9 April. The LSO has been spicing its season with surprises, and these dates follow the pattern. Clarinet and piano pieces by Schumann, a symphony by one Hans Rott who was a youthful influence on Mahler, the UK premiere of a Concerto Grosso by the current doyen of Russian manic-depressives, Alfred Schnittke. And in case you felt the LSO's recent three-month Boulez series was a bit mean, there's a performance of his Eclat, too.

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