The Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp Minor of Gustav Mahler achieves the artistic goals of the symphony at the same time that it bursts the boundaries of the form. What started out as a somewhat melancholy take (the opening movement is a funeral march) on the traditional four-part symphonic structure quickly morphed into something else when the composer met the love of his life, Alma Schindler, and married her within a period of months. Mahler dedicated the fourth of what became five movements, the Adagietto, to his bride and let it be known that the dramatic tone and radiant harmonies of the piece’s closing two sections represented his dream of love as it came true in life.
This is all by way of saying that Mahler’s Fifth is a major undertaking, but one that’s shot through with just the kind of romantic intensity that ought to fire up a young orchestra such as the one the Music Academy has assembled for this season. Conductor Peter Oundjian, vigorous on the podium with a slash of blue down the back of his dinner jacket, let the young players have mostly free reign to get swept up—and even carried away—by this frequently ecstatic music. The Santa Barbara Symphony also chose this work for their final concert of the 2010 season, and it was a delight to hear it again in the Granada, where Mahler’s writing for the horns resounds so clearly. As with the majority of more recent interpretations, the Adagietto here was stretched to its limits, leaving ample time for the aching sonorities of Mahler to do their work.