German Conductor to Make BSO Debut at Tanglewood with Mahler’s First Symphony

When not exploring the human experience through sound, Moritz Gnann hopes to see a Red Sox game.
Photo courtesy BSO.

Photo courtesy BSO.

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 begins in a beguiling single note, inviting the listener to step into this realm of possibility and join the piece’s hero on a frenetic odyssey through foppish Viennese waltzes, macabre nursery songs, and klezmer music, culminating in, as Mahler described it, the “cry of a wounded heart.”

“It is almost schizophrenic,” says Mortiz Gnann, the German conductor who will make his debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood this Sunday. “It starts in this matter-of-fact tone, and then very soon something like a harsh cut in a movie, you wouldn’t expect it but suddenly, now for something completely different.”

Mahler composed the piece before his 30th birthday, while serving as second conductor of the Leipzig Opera in Germany. Like the protagonists in most of his works, Mahler crafted the First’s hero in his own image, one Gnann relates to.

“It is very difficult to chose a favorite piece by Mahler, but I think it suits very well my current situation, because what Mahler had in mind when he composed this piece was a young person, I guess, he calls it a kind of hero who is dealing with life and is going through his life…who in the end, succeeds.”

Born in Tuebingen, Germany, Moritz originally studied economics before pursuing conducting studies at the Universität der Künste in Berlin and the Musikhochschule Dresden. He made his conducting debut in 2007, joining the BSO as an assistant conductor for the 2015-16 season.

“I love Andris Nelsons,” he says of the BSO conductor. “Of course, I’ve been working with him for a while, also in Germany. I learned so much from his general musicality and most convincing way of conducting. You want to play for him well. It’s really amazing.”

Moritz says he loves Boston, and describes a palpable energy emanating from it. But most importantly, he’d love to catch a Red Sox game.

“I would love to! Actually, I wanted to go there during my first season,” he says. “You know, in Germany, we were not so much into this kind of sport. But I hope I will manage next season when I’m back in Boston.”

You can purchase tickets for the BSO’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9, conducted by Moritz Gnann at the Koussevitzky Music Shed at Tanglewood, here.


Kyle Scott Clauss Kyle Clauss, Digital News Writer at Boston Magazine bmagdigital+kclauss@gmail.com