Mahler Six: Epic!

Interview with FOOSA Artistic Director Thomas Loewenheim
Topic: Mahler Symphony No. 6

You have chosen to conduct Mahler 6 for this summer’s FOOSA. Why this piece?
Well, the FOOSA Festival is probably one of the most epic festivals I have ever been involved in. We have grown this festival to what it is in only a few years with an amazing faculty. Because we have such a large and accomplished orchestra we can program epic works…and what better work than this incredible, beautiful, giant beast?

Any special plans for the order of movements?
Definitely. Like any conductor attempting to perform this piece today I did my research. And the more I read, the more I realized that I understood what the order should be. As you know, originally Mahler had organized the piece with the scherzo first, followed by the andante. But he changed the order before the first performance. Some critics say it makes more sense to have the scherzo first, but I think if one looks at the entire symphony, it makes more sense to have the first movement, then the andante, then the scherzo, and then, of course, the last movement. My reasons: 1) I’m basing my decision on what Mahler himself wished after first performance; and 2), for me, personally, the overall structure carries the day, and it’s clear that the third movement brings us back to the themes and the key of first movement.

Do you have any special plans for the famous hammer blow?
Probably we’ll just use one. (Pause) Though it’s not cheap to rent those things…maybe we’ll add a few more to make it worth our while …maybe, in fact, our commissioned composer Joseph Bohigian can add a hammer blow to his piece. That way we can get more…bang…for our buck.

What part of this symphony do you particularly look forward to?
Actually, I love the first movement. The audience is drawn immediately in to the piece, which starts with that beautiful march. I look forward to starting the journey, whereas in so many pieces one looks toward the end. But I really like the opening and the way the symphony unfolds, because then everything just fits in…everyone is looking forward to the hammer…but without the beginning you don’t have anything to look forward to.

What about having Lynn Harrell as your principal cellist for this work? We understand he’s had some prior experience…
Having Lynn Harrell with us is epic, like our festival itself. His joining us matches the FOOSA tradition where the most unexpected things happen. He is an inspiration…part of what we call that FOOSA magic. Also, there's an important Mahler Six connection, because before he became the international soloist he is so well known as, Harrell was principal cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra during its famous years with conductor George Szell. He actually performed Mahler Six under Szell! Daunting, but terrifically exciting for us.



Don Juan: Gotta Love This!

Don Juan! In the orchestra world those two words are enough. Everybody knows what we mean. For most of us those words are inextricably bound with one thing and one thing only: orchestra auditions.

First associate LA Philharmonic concertmaster Nathan Cole, as just one violinistic example, gets so involved in the world of Don Juan excerpts that he has managed to produce a 16.5-minute video on the subject.

On a related but somewhat lighter note, here’s Philadelphia concertmaster David Kim giving a master class on Don Juan and telling a student to “fake it” and “shake your head a lot.” (More on orchestral faking in this article from The Strad Magazine.)

Luckily for players of all orchestral instruments, Don Juan is an equal-opportunity tough-excerpt-supplier, and there are related parts and posts for everyone in the orchestra, among them some notable solos. But you already knew that.

What you probably also knew, though we have to admit we ourselves did not, is that Strauss was inspired by a poem written by Nikolaus Lenau (1802-1850) titled, perhaps not surprisingly, “Don Juan.”

We learn from Herbert Glass's program notes for the Los Angeles Philharmonic that a key line from this poem has the famous serial womanizer musing about “the charmed circle of many kinds of beautiful, stimulating femininity…" and thinking to himself, "I should like to traverse them in a storm of pleasure.”

Well, you know...Don Juan.

We hope you will be able to traverse your Strauss excerpts stormily and frequently as you prepare for our first rehearsals. FOOSA starts on June 11!

(Apply now if you haven't already, for FOOSA 2017!)

Priority Fellowship/Scholarship Deadline for FOOSA 2017 is April 15!

Our board believes in making great musical opportunities available to as many deserving musicians as possible. Through their generosity, and with the support of our major sponsors and individual donors, three types of financial assistance are available.


1)    Fellowships for advanced college and graduate-school students: Musicians chosen for this honor will be given specific mentoring responsibilities according to their inclinations and abilities. Many FOOSA Fellows work with younger players in our FOOSA Half-Day program. In addition to a stellar audition, a private teacher's recommendation is key to securing one of our fellowships. The fellowship provides full tuition to FOOSA, and select fellows will also have their dorm fees covered. Fellowships cannot be applied to board (meals). 

2)    Need-based scholarships: This kind of tuition assistance is available to applicants with demonstrated need. Formulas are applied based on the documentation of need that is requested on the application here, and decisions are made on a rolling basis as long as funds are available. Please allow adequate time to make sure all of your documents are in order, as incomplete applications cannot be considered.

3)    Merit-based scholarships: A limited number of merit-based scholarships for musicians of all ages are available, and are awarded on the strengths of the private teacher recommendation, as reviewed by our faculty. Any young musician talented enough to perform Mahler and Strauss with us at Walt Disney Concert Hall is certainly deserving of merit-based aid, but we cannot stress enough that these funds are extremely limited.