Steven Sarper at Mahler’s Grave in Vienna

Steven Sarper

Thursday, March 5, 2020,


The Arizona Senior Academy Building

As an introduction to the Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s early April performances of Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony, the Resurrection, Steven Sarper will discuss the composer’s life and music. 

Sarper, a retiree now living in Tucson, describes his first encounter with Mahler’s music: “In the mid-60’s, when I lived in Florida, I heard the third movement of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, and I was hooked!” Since then, Harper has actively sought out performances of Mahler’s work—particularly his symphonies—and has become affiliated with Mahler Societies wherever he could. Through those affiliations he has studied as many sources of information about Mahler as possible. Although not a professional musician, Sarper has intensively investigated not only Gustav Mahler’s life (1860-1911) but the composer’s music as well. To the Arizona Senior Academy he brings stories of both.

Gustav Mahler, by Emil Orlik, 1902

Mahler is said to have bridged the musical traditions of the 19th century and the more modernist 20th century. Because his chief employment was as a conductor, his published works are relatively few. The compositions for which he is particularly known are the symphonies, all written on a grand scale, and the song cycles. Many of his symphonic works were controversial when first performed, but not so the Resurrection, which received an enthusiastic reaction from the audience.

The Resurrection is a challenge to perform today because of its orchestral demands. Mahler called for 17 wind instruments, 25 brass (some in the balcony), 20 percussion, an organ, two soloists, a full chorus, and a large array of the standard stringed instruments.

Written by Sarah Dinham, Academy Village Volunteer 

March 5: “Gustav Mahler’s Life and Work”