This is the big one. Mahler’s Fifth not only contains the composer’s most famous passage, but marks a sharp shift for the late-Romantic conductor — one from the world of song and folk melody to pathos and cinematic drama. Never one content to orchestrate a singular emotion or experience, Mahler, with Symphony No. 5, scrambles and yearns to capture the entirety of the human condition, starting with a single trumpet voice for a funeral march in that most treacherous of key signatures — C-sharp minor — and exploding into colossal tempest. In an interview with NPR’s “Weekend Edition,” powerhouse conductor Marin Alsop says of conducting the piece: “It’s almost like being sucked into a vortex. It’s a trancelike experience.” So, too, I imagine it will be for audiences, one of Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s last under Maestro Philip Mann’s baton.
Fitting it is, too, that one Mann’s longtime collaborators Michael Fine adds his voice to this concert, premiering his “Concerto for Oboe Section” with ASO oboists Leanna Renfro, Lorraine Duso Kitts and Beth Wheeler in the spotlight.