REVIEW: Detroit Symphony Mahler 5 Facebook Stream

On March 22, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra held a Facebook Live event, hosted by their Principal Timpanist and University of Michigan LEO instructor (my professor), Jeremy Epp. Epp began the session by giving an inspirational message about the current predicament American society finds itself in and by stating how much the DSO wishes they could play live for us, but these Facebook live events will have to do instead. He then went on to give special recognition to Principal Horn Karl Pituch and Principal Trumpet Hunter Eberly for their magnificent solos in the Mahler that was about to be broadcast. He also added that the orchestra was being conducted by Rafael Payare, a young conductor making his debut with the symphony. With that we were on our way. To be clear, this performance was a recording of one of their concerts from last spring. I was fortunate enough to see that concert live and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to see it again on Facebook. Jeremy was certainly correct that Mr. Eberly’s solo in the beginning was quite spectacular. The piece begins with a solo trumpet playing a theme that quite literally sets the tone for the whole piece as it is repeated by many instruments later on. After the initial trumpet, the power of the orchestra was felt soundly as everyone else joined in for the first tutti section about 30 seconds in. The brass really stole the show for the first movement as Mahler wrote them gorgeous and powerful melodies. In contrast to the heft of the brass, were some lovely soft moments from some unsuspecting characters. Notably, the timpanist has a gorgeous solo about halfway through the movement that is very soft and echoes the trumpet solo that starts the piece. Mr. Epp executed it to perfection, of course. After the first movement died down the same way it began, with a trumpet solo, the orchestra geared up for a wild ride with the second movement. While the first movement was very in control and militaristic, the second movement was wild and almost unhinged, but in a good way. While the music was happening, Facebook holds a comment section next to the video, allowing people to give opinions on the performance. Because Jeremy was moderating, he would chime in now and then with interesting, albeit in depth and nerdy, facts about the piece, especially regarding the timpani part. In addition, many members of the DSO were in the chat hyping up their colleagues before big solos which was great to see. The sense of family that this orchestra has is truly something special. The third movement featured Principal Horn Karl Pituch who did a phenomenal job with the solo part. Many orchestras, including the University of Michigan’s USO, ask the principal horn to come to the front of the stage for this movement because their part is almost akin to a soloist in a concerto. The fourth movement is the part that gets played on its own the most because of how beautiful it is. It almost rivals Barber’s Adagio for Strings in its beauty. While the brass dominated the beginning of the piece, the strings dominated this movement. The played everything with such passion and sorrow that one couldn’t help but be moved while listening to it. The fifth movement is one of the most exciting finales of any piece, in my opinion. It truly embodies what it means to build up a movement or piece as the ending is absolutely enormous in comparison to its somewhat sparse beginning. Mr. Epp was featured again here, earning multiple action shots of him at work as he navigated this challenging movement. In my opinion, the last 3 or 4 minutes of this piece are some of the best to ever be written and make this my favorite Mahler symphony. Overall, I really enjoyed watching the DSO live version of this piece because they streamed a really high quality video and it was really cool to see everybody interacting in the chat. Their performance of Mahler’s 5th Symphony can be found here: Subsequent streams will keep occurring through the Facebook Live platform and I encourage everyone to check those out. In addition, the DSO is offering free access to their digital library for a short period of time in light of the coronavirus pandemic. I encourage everybody to seize the opportunity to see this great orchestra in action and attend their concerts once everything is back to normal as they are a vital part of the Michigan arts community.


ajayw is a junior in SMTD and Economics. It is his third year reviewing for art[seen]. As a music student, ajayw takes great interest in reviewing the music events on campus, especially those brought in by UMS.

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