Mahler for Wind Orchestra – yes, Um Mitternacht but what else? My Concert of the Month was at the Royal Northern College of Music, entirely made up of Mahler performances.


Rondo Burlesque

13:15 on Thursday 19th January 2012

Royal Northern College of Music

RNCM Wind Orchestra

Mark Heron and Andrew Gregory conduct Mahler's Adagietto from Symphony No 5 In C Minor, Um Mitternacht and Rondo Burleske from Symphony No 9 In D. With soprano Elizabeth Karani

This was a game of two halves, echt Mahler framed by the Adagietto and the Rondo Burleske, homage to Mahler from two British composers to commemorate the centenary of his death in 1911.


David Horne set himself the most difficult task, transcribing the Adagietto without using the harp which was standing forlornly by the side. For me, this was too much of a challenge – while the wind were able to sustain those incredible string lines and even bring an added intensity to them, I feel that even the greatest wind orchestra in the world would be unable to tackle the pianissimo harp part satisfactorily. In this performance the opening became the start of an Adagietto Burleske - shame, since the concept was generally great, and Mark Heron managed to secure a moving reading, which especially came to life in that agonised outcry of the middle section. It was bravely played by the young players of the RNCM. I suggested to David that he might think of using harp at the start, and adding the rest in later, but he thinks it is possible to make it work.


Um Mitternacht is of course Mahler’s only essay in wind ensemble writing. This wonderful movement from the Ruckert Lieder received an exemplary performance by the very experienced Elizabeth Karani, not as dramatic as some performances I have heard, but beautifully controlled with admirable accompaniment conducted by Andrew Gregory.

And so to the finale of the concert, the extraordinary Rondo Burleske, arranged by Adam Gorb and already published by Maecenas. This was a tour de force, brilliantly scored, played and conducted. It would be good to hear it after a couple of performances. I remember hearing the CBSO playing Mahler 3 for the first time, and then again a couple of years later when they and Sir Simon had got really inside the work, and it was played with the sensitivity of a string quartet. I hope that Mark Heron has the chance to play it again several times in the coming months with this group, which apparently included a number of 1st and 2nd years – great solo playing throughout the ensemble and fine control from Mark.



There was a great story from composer Paul Patterson before the concert. Many years ago, the Royal Colleges of Music joined together to put on Mahler 8 at the Royal Albert Hall, conducted by the late Ole Schmidt. Paul had been commissioned to write an opening fanfare, and at the end of the concert, all the soloists, choir trainers, conductors and Paul came on to the stage for last curtain calls. After the concert, Paul was accosted by an earnest young American who asked for his autograph…….. next to a photograph of Mahler.

“Oh, thank you Mr Mahler” said the fan; Paul signed With best wishes, Gustav.