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CSO to show ‘Tragic’ side of Romantic composer

Courtesy of Scott Cunningham Photography

Combining more than 100 musicians playing four movements with a score composed almost 110 years ago, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra hopes to strike an awe-inspired chord with their next performance.

The orchestra will perform “Symphony No. 6 in A Minor,” originally composed by Austrian composer, Gustav Mahler, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Ohio Theatre.

Mahler was a late-Romantic composer. This particular piece, often referred to as “Tragic,” was written between 1903 and 1904, for a particularly large orchestra. Due to the magnitude of the work, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra members anticipates an evening that is monumental.

“It’s so large, it’s so substantial, and it’s not played that often. It will be a huge, powerful concert,” said Roland Valliere, president and chief creative officer of the orchestra.

Valliere said with a concert this large comes a responsibility to match. Confident in his talents, CSO has turned to Jean-Marie Zeitouni, who serves as music director for the orchestra, to lead them through the performance.

Zeitouni, hailing from Canada, has served with CSO since fall 2010. He has been a part of several successful productions, but he said this work in particular holds a special place within him.

“I have a very personal relationship with it. It’s actually the first Mahler symphony that I discovered,” Zeitouni said. “I listened to the piece for the first time probably when I must have been 12 or 13 years old, and I was completely washed out on my back by the power of the orchestrators and the drama in this piece.”

Zeitouni said he didn’t realize until much later exactly how deep the piece was or how truly complex of a composure it would turn out to be.

“Mahler himself said about this piece, ‘This piece will puzzle generations of people … and they’re going to finally understand it once they know all of my previous symphonies,'” Zeitouni said.

Betsy Sturdevant, principal bassoonist, said she admires Zeitouni for his ability to “command the entire orchestra at once.” She said she appreciates this work ethic and his reliability.

“We can always count on him having a very comprehensive knowledge of whatever score we are playing and he is a great advocate for the composer,” she said. “He sees to it that every little detail the composer asks for in his score is honored by us, and he doesn’t settle for anything less than that.”

Tickets are priced at $24.75-$68 and can be purchased at Ticketmaster outlets, and students between the ages of 13-19 may purchase $5 PNC Arts Alive All Access tickets while available.

Christopher Purdy of WOSU Public Media will hold a lecture prior to each evening’s concert at 7 p.m., free to ticket holders.

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