Two orchestras join for Mahler’s ‘Symphony No. 2’

A big idea calls for a big symphony.

And a big symphony calls for a big performance.

So, the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra is joining the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra to do just that.

The two orchestras, along with their symphony choruses, will fill the Baton Rouge River Center Theatre’s stage at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 13, to perform Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 2.” They’ll repeat the performance at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 15, in the Heymann Performing Arts Center in Lafayette.

Each performance will be conducted by a different maestro, and different conductors mean different interpretations.

“Mahler is open for interpretation,” says Timothy Muffitt, the Baton Rouge Symphony’s conductor and music director.

He’ll be conducting the Baton Rouge concert, while Acadiana Symphony Music Director Mariusz Smolij conducts the performance in Lafayette.

“Mariusz will be leading the Sunday rehearsal, and I’ll be conducting the rehearsals on Tuesday and Wednesday,” Muffitt says. “We’ve discussed it and put some things in place so the musicians will know what to expect.”

Mahler spent six years writing his “Symphony No. 2,” also know as the “Resurrection Symphony.” It was first performed in 1895. The idea of resurrection and afterlife is big, and Mahler saw it as beautiful.

“The opening of the symphony, with its cello and bass tremolo and descending open fifths has elicited considerable comment for its similarity to the first measures of Beethhoven’s ‘Ninth Symphony,’” the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra’s online narrative states. “There follows a series of themes that elicit the various emotional states people undergo when confronted with death: the celebration of the life of the deceased, in this case the “hero”; the moments of reflection; and determination in the face of grief.”

“We’ve collaborated on a Mahler piece before,” Muffitt says. “The last time it was with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra shortly after Hurricane Katrina.”

Smolij suggested the collaboration between the Acadiana and Baton Rouge orchestras to Muffitt. Muffitt discussed it with former Executive Director Allen Hopper, who spoke to the symphony board.

More than 200 people will come together for this performance.

“And it will be quite a concert,” Muffitt says. “This Mahler symphony is really remarkable, and it’s a unique experience to be there live.”