God’s composer

Alma Schindler Mahler, the flirtatious wife of composer-conductor Gustav Mahler, liked to say that her perfectionistic husband was always telephoning God. By that I think she meant that Mahler was all about the big picture – big ideas like love and death embodied in a big, rich, full sound that brought the 19th century’s Romantic movement to its apex. I count among the greatest experiences in my cultural life the Mahler Festival held at Carnegie Hall in 1976 in which I heard mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade sing his “Songs of a Wayfarer” and the New York Philharmonic perform his epic Symphony No. 5 under the baton of Erich Leinsdorf – a performance so moving that the conductor himself was brought to tears.

If you’re a collector of Mahler performances as I am then you’ll want to hear the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra perform his Symphony No. 1 at 8 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Norwalk Concert Hall in City Hall. It’s probably Mahler’s most accessible symphony, with snatches of the dirge-like theme from “Wayfarer” apparent. Even if you’re a Mahler neophyte, not to worry:  In a program being billed as a “Mahler Immersion,” music director Jonathan Yates will take you through the work before he leads the orchestra and musicians from the community in the performance.

That night, the symphony will be teaming with Jewish Family Service to stock its food pantry. Audience members are encouraged to bring nonperishable kosher goods with them. It’s a great way to give back and enjoy some truly transcendent music. Tickets range from $5 to $40. The concert hall is at 125 East Ave.

For more, call (203) 956-6771 or visit norwalksymphony.org.

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