Variations for Trombone and Orchestra after Symphony No.3 by G. Mahler

Frédéric Chaslin’ s most recent “Theme and  11 Variations for Trombone and orchestra after Mahler’s 3rd  Symphony” spread his name among the most famous trombone players of the world. The premiere was on November 6, 2019 in Jerusalem, performed by Shahar Livne with the Jerusalem Philharmonic under the direction of the author. An inspired connoisseur and admirer of Mahler’s work, Chaslin constructs the large-scale, almost 40-minute work as a homage to Mahler’s sound world. The theme is the initial trombone theme from the first part of the Third Symphony, but various typical elements of Mahler’s compositional hand are woven in the fabric of the work, as well as echoes of his other symphonies. The individual variations compare contrasting genres and emotional states, as an allusion to the great wealth of images and ideas in Mahler’s music. Even the names of the variations are in different languages – German, English, French. in author’s own words: “The last time I conducted Mahler’s Third Symphony, I was amazed to hear the solo trombone in the first part. I thought: This is probably the spectacular solo that ALL trombonists learn and play, and it is certainly the longest and most famous solo in orchestral literature. Then why not do it on a longer play? And of course, the variations were the most appropriate. The variation takes part of the theme and develops or transforms it to make it a completely original play. Each variation must have its own strong individuality, but still reflect one of the many aspects of the original theme.. I chose to travel through time, starting with “The Polka” because this was the first play Mahler wrote at the age of six. Then comes “Bohemian waltz” because Mahler grew up in Bohemia. Then “Leipzig. Fugue” because that’s where one of Mahler’s first important positions as a conductor was, and Leipzig means Bach, so – Fugue. Next comes Jazz 1 (before his death, Mahler intended to study jazz); “Mahler” (a variation in an exclusively Mahler style, sort of “study on Mahler”). Then “Cauchemar” with a 12-tone technique, because Mahler admitted to Alma that the new music coming from Schoenberg was like a nightmare for him as he had to admit that his own music was old-fashioned. The following part is called “Heroic” with the last part of the theme bearing a heroic character. “Jazz 2”, “Unfinished” bears elements and moods from the last part of Symphony № 10 (unfinished), but again developing material from the main theme, then “Vision to the Beyond”, where the theme is transformed into a variety of salon, hip-hop and rap styles. The Finale Variation, which brings back the beginning of the theme, leads to delirium, reaching a frantic Yiddish dance.

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