Home » Events » Mahler – i en arktisk fortelling / and Arctic stories

Mahler – i en arktisk fortelling / and Arctic stories

Saturday 24 February 2024 at 14:00
at Longyearbyen Kulturhus
Photo credit: Raymond Engmark

Is this the first time a symphony by Gustav Mahler has been performed in Svalbard? When we present one of the grand masters of symphonies, we want to bring a bit of the Arctic emotions and history into the presentation of this symphonic fairytale.

Nb: Fremføring av tekst mellom satsene vil skje på norsk.

The symphony feels like being part of a 50 minute long fairytale, and to accompany this four movement symphonic fairytale – we will present stories from the polar history, told through the pen of Liv Balstad, Maya Plisetskaya and Ruth Lillegraven.

Mahler’s 4th symphony is about childhood, in the sense that most of his music seems to be “about” profound issues of life and death. Perhaps we are more willing to identify with the child’s world than to face the numberless existential issues that haunted Mahler throughout his life. The symphony’s opening is one of the most enchanting in the literature: Mahler begins with the chilly sound of sleigh bells before taking us inside to a crackling fire. 

The first movement has it’s childlike character’s, positivity and naivity. The second movement brings us to wondering about the mysteries in life, still in a dreamy character, even though there are hint’s of dangers in the horizons. The third movement brings a nostalgic and more mature feeling of love and warm memories, from times gone by. The music reveals some dramatic passages and we feel the sorrow and pain. The fourth and final movement wrap’s it all together, with beauty and thoughtfulness, with both fragile and dramatic parts.

Unconventionally, Mahler choose to end his symphony with a song for solo voice and orchestra, something no composer had ever done before. The text of the song was taken from one of Mahler’s sources of inspiration, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (“The Youth’s Magic Horn”), a collection of German folk poetry. Mahler was attracted to the simplicity of folk poetry, which he felt was closer to nature than more literary verses. This poem presents a child’s vision of heaven, and the child pictures what life in heaven must be like.


Gustav Mahler, Symphony no. 4 in G Major, in arrangement for small orchestra by Klaus Simon

Bilder fra albumkopi levert inn av Stein Balstad, sønn av Liv Balstad, født Hodne( 09.07.1915-07.03.1966) og Håkon Balstad(1904-1964). Håkon Balstad var sysselmann på Svalbard fra 1945-1956. Albumet finnes i privatarkiv “Balstad”.


Ben Palmer, conductor

Arktisk Filharmoni

Sigrun Selboe, Svalbard Museum

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