|Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra with Chief Conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali|
The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra livestreamed Mahler Symphony no 6 last night, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach. What a surprise ! A very early version of the symphony, before the many amendments. Three hammerblows ! A rare opportunity to hear the original version of the symphony, before Mahler's decision to drop the third after the first performance. Sources close to Mahler suggested that the reason might have been superstition: the nickname "tragic" alluding to death. I'm not so sure. To me the symphony sounds more sinister because we don't hear the third hammer blow though we know it ought to be there. Instead, it haunts the symphony like an unseen threat : much more disturbing than a neat, conventional ending. We'd possibly not notice if we didn't know, since the symphony works so well structurally, but it is good to remember and hear Mahler's first thoughts from time to time. Since we didn't know that Gothenburg would spring this rarity, no-one seems to have listened with an early version of the score. Not to worry. In any case, we hear Mahler 6 so often that it’s a good experience to hear something different. The performance will hopefully be repeated on GSOplay, Gothenburg's own broadcast channel, available on their website HERE. .
GSOplay is definitely worth following ! Although the livestreams don't repeat, they are archived and appear on the website later, as is often the case. Look at what they have to offer - a good Sibelius Kullervo with Gothenburg's new Chief, Santtu-Matias Rouvali. They're doing the new, much tighter new edition premiered in Helsinki in 2015, a brilliant performance which the Helsinki Philharmonic broadcast, conducted by Sakari Oramo, a much more impassioned performance than when he did it with the BBCSO In London soon after, with the same soloists. (Read more here) But I digress. Look also at what the Gotheburg Symphony is coming up with soon : Shostakovich on Wednesday and a gala marking the centenary of Finnish Independence on Thursday 7th December - Sibelius 1, Rautavaara and Wennäkoski. (click here)
Also interesting is that Gothenburg's livesteam was also picked up by Gramophone magazine, which ran a link. Gramophone is of course closely linked to the gramophone industry, a term which sounds so outdated that it's almost exotic, and worth keeping as a historical record (deliberate pun !). Once music was always live, and recording were souvenirs . With modern technology the balance can be restored again towards performance, with more emphasis on repertoire, as opposed to delivery., Through new technology, orchestras like Gothenburg Symphony can reach audiences far beyond their local area. Watching the livestream, I was heartened to read comments on the feed from all over the world - Latin America, Asia, the Middle East. The world is not confined to "traditional" western markets. Gothenburg travels, and has even played in Macau. But touring is expensive.
Streaming gives orchestras greater artistic control. Supported by the Swedish government, Gothenburg can in turn support Swedish music, and thus the musical health of the country. A wise investment. Performance supports music education, and an educated public supports music. Note some of the repertoire Gothenburg can tackle which might not otherwise be done.
Since orchestras play live anyway, it makes financial sense to stream live. There are costs, of course, but well-managed livestreams keep profits in house minimizing the middlemen. Livestream isn't cheap, so the future may lie with unions of orchestras, sharing platforms and co-operating together, like Operavision. Bergen and Gothenburg, together with Helsinki - all three pioneers in the new technology, would be a strong union. More advance publicity wouldn't hurt, either. Best of all, the balance would swing back towards live performance and variety of repertoire. There are audiences who don't actually like live music. Seriously, I've heard of people complaining about the shine of musicians’ shoes ! But music never has been something to be heard in sterile isolation, devoid of external influences. Part of the fun is human communication, the way the players interact with the conductor, even subliminal details like the way individuals work with their instruments. Sure, it's a lot more to take in than audio only, but music was never meant not to be live. New technology offers new possibilities : increasingly, the industry shifts towards orchestra-based distribution.