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Kentucky Symphony Orchestra presents Gustav Mahler’s final work — and poet laureates add poetry

The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra continues its 30th Anniversary season with the final complete work of Gustav Mahler.

His Symphony No. 9 (which he never heard performed) has long challenged conductors, musicians and audiences to discern what he was trying to say. Still reeling from the death of his four-year-old daughter, the diagnosis of his own terminal heart disease, together with a crumbling marriage and amidst international conducting engagements, Mahler’s last work shares a more cool and objective view of beauty and passion than is experienced in his prior works.

Gustav Mahler

The concert — A Parting Opus (Saying farewell in Words and Music) — will open with Mahler’s Adagietto (from Symphony No. 5) for strings and harp.

Composer/conductor Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was a superstar in the early 20th Century, holding music directorships in Vienna and New York. He took the form and structure of the symphony to its pinnacle, expanding the length and resources (number of musicians) required to play them. Since 1999, the KSO has performed Mahler’s 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 10th (1st mvt only) symphonies.

Such works challenge the performer and listener and are therefore an important dietary component of KSO programming.

Pairing challenging music with other art forms (dance, visual art, film) has long been a collaborative part of KSO concerts. For Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, KSO music director James Cassidy invited U.S. and KY poet laureates to imagine writing a final poem.

Juan Felipe Herrera (U.S. Poet Laureate 2015-17) and Frederick Smock (KY Poet Laureate 2017-18) have submitted commissioned works inspired by Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 that will be read and posted in the KSO’s digital (smartphone) program.

“Poetry like music offers an introspection, reflection and analogous inspirations that mean more when heard or read over time. We like to experiment with such ideas at the KSO, and hope that this pairing makes Mahler’s work and the concert experience more meaningful and memorable,” said Cassidy.

Join the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra at Greaves Concert Hall for Mahler’s parting opus at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, January 29, on the campus of NKU in Highland Heights. Tickets for each show remain $35 to experience great musicians, guest artists, and innovative programming unique to our region.

The KSO continues to adopt the safety protocols of each respective venue that are in place on the date of the performance.

For those who need to stay home, the KSO live streams each concert (with multiple cameras) for your ‘at home access’ for the price of a single ticket.

Tickets are available online at kyso.org or by phone at (859) 431-6216.

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