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New Beginnings

Eduardo Strausser and Isata Kanneh-Mason open our season with Beethoven, Mahler and a world premiere by Michael Gallen

Event Details


20 September 2024 19:45


Ulster Hall - Belfast

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Mahler, Beethoven and Michael Gallen

Mahler Symphony No. 1 Titan

Scroll down to read an interview with conductor Eduardo Strausser.


Michael Gallen How To Go Off (Like a Rocket) (World Premiere)
Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4
Mahler Symphony No. 1 Titan


Mahler’s First Symphony opens with shimmering sunlight and sounds of nature, starting 2024/25 in a wakening landscape scene that seems to pick up the idea of ‘rebirth’ that closed the 2023/24 Season. We join a walking wayfarer as they make peace with their tempestuous past and stride confidently into their future – not a bad way to start a new Season!
Michael Gallen’s How To Go Off (Like A Rocket) opens the concert with a burst of glittering musical fireworks as it depicts the Oscar Wilde short story The Remarkable Rocket and our guest soloist is Isata Kanneh-Mason, fresh from opening the 2024 BBC Proms, who performs Beethoven’s gorgeously warm Fourth Piano Concerto.

Did you know that discounts for Ulster Orchestra Classical Season concerts are available from booking as few as four concerts? The discount starts at 10% off, running right up to a 25% discount if you buy all 16. Don’t forget – the more you buy, the more you save!

We'd also like to invite you to Share the Love of Music in a new special offer. If you make a multi-buy booking of 10 or more Classical Season concerts before Monday 2 September 2024, you will receive a complimentary pair of tickets for a Classical Season concert to share with friends.

Conductor Eduardo Strausser on Mahler's Symphony No. 1

Brazilian conductor Eduardo Strausser joined the Ulster Orchestra last season to conduct one of our BBC Radio 3 Invitation Concerts and Puccini's Tosca with Northern Ireland Opera. He returns to open our Season 2024/25 with Mahler's Symphony No. 1, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 (with soloist Isata Kanneh-Mason) and the world premiere of Michael Gallen's How To Go Off (Like a Rocket).

We spoke to Eduardo ahead of the opening of the new season to talk about the role of the conductor in storytelling, and how Mahler's musical message is as important now as it was a century ago. 

How do you prepare to conduct something like Mahler's Symphony No. 1?

“We think that we can control everything, but the truth is that we have control over nothing whatsoever. That's why it's good to leave space for the unpredictable, embrace the spontaneous. 

Feeling prepared as a conductor is the work of a lifetime. You can never be 100% prepared. There is always something to find out, something to discover, something to experience.”

How do you prepare to conduct a Mahler symphony?

"The same way you prepare for any other symphony, except the magnitude is different. It takes a long time, but I approach a Mahler symphony the same way that I approach Mozart's or Beethoven's symphonies. It's just that everything is on steroids. 

The context is different, but all composers are talking about the same thing. There is much more music to memorize, to analyse, many more complex harmonies to understand, but once you understand that, I think the approach should be the same."

How is Mahler's music relatable today?

"Mahler was known in his lifetime as a conductor and largely created the image of the conductor that we know nowadays, though we venerate him today as a composer. He was a man of the theatre, so he knew and understood how to tell a story. His music reflects this gift for storytelling. He knows how to tell a very complex story. Complex stories are much more difficult to tell in a coherent way, but we interpreters are actors. You don't have to have the same life that Mahler had, but you must use your imagination. 

When we see a painting by Rubens, today we just see a beautiful painting, but the audience of people who were there watching his work when he painted them, they found that there was a very strong political message relating to the time and space they were living in, and with Mahler it's the same. Sometimes we hear the music of Mahler, and we just think it's beautiful. We see the movie about Bernstein, and we think 'Wow, that's fantastic!'. But back then, when he wrote it, there was a very strong political message for the time that also transcends the years, and I think that this speaks to us now more than ever. Mahler himself said that his music was not to be understood during his lifetime, and that this understanding would come with time, and I think the time is now. Not only now -- it was time already in the 1940s in Europe with the War, but the world now is not so different than it was then unfortunately. I hope we hear Mahler's message as a collective."

Tell us more about Mahler's Symphony No. 1

"In a more abstract way, this First Symphony is a metaphor to all of us that we are all an integrated part of nature, and we should treat Mother Earth with love and care. At the very beginning, you can imagine a very young composer who is going to compose his first symphony. He has a huge orchestra and what does he do? Just open strings, everybody playing the same note -- and suddenly we are in a forest and we can hear birds and maybe a small stream flowing. In the later movements, when I hear this strong Austrian dance, I can imagine a time when the streets of Vienna were not made from concrete, but earth for the horses to walk on. This transportation back in time and space is what I would love for the audience to experience."

Is there anything else you would like the audience to keep in mind while listening to Mahler 1?

"I would like each audience member to concentrate on the music and allow themselves to embark on their own journey, because anyone can relate to the music of Mahler, according to their own background and experiences. This is not strictly in terms of musical background but rather the life experiences which each person has had. Each person will be touched by the music of Mahler in a different way. With the rise of TikTok and short form media, the world seems to move too fast, but to really enjoy the music of Mahler you need to have patience to enjoy it for more than an hour -- to be immersed in this ocean of sound and just let the music speak."

Ulster Orchestra's Season 2024/24 Opening Concert, 'New Beginnings' takes place in the Ulster Hall, Belfast on 20 September. Book tickets now.

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