Greater Bridgeport Symphony to play Mahler's 5th; preview Thursday

Arts & Leisure on the HAN Network will preview this Saturday's Greater Bridgeport Symphony concert on Thursday, March 10, when music director and conductor Eric Jacobsen and operations manager Mark Halstead join A&L co-hosts Steve Coulter and Sally Sanders to talk about the March 12 event. Showtime for HAN Arts & Leisure is 2 p.m. at

Following a sold-out house at its December concert, the Greater Bridgeport Symphony(GBS) continues its 70th 2015-16 Season when Gustav Mahler returns to Bridgeport for the first time in almost 30 years with a performance of his Fifth Symphony at the Klein Memorial Auditorium on Saturday March 12, 2016.  The Fifth, conducted by Eric Jacobsen, is a grand production.  “The sound will be huge,” says GBS Operations Manager Mark Halstead.  “Over 80 professional musicians will take the stage, more than at any GBS concert in decades.”

Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, known as “The Giant” because of its scope and proportions – five movements as opposed to the traditional four for symphonies – marked a turning point in Mahler’s career.  The composer himself felt, after its premiere, that no one understood the music, which runs the gamut of emotions from despair, to passionate love, to triumph.

Mahler was an influential composer of the early 20th century, who penned 10 symphonies and a multitude of songs and chorale pieces.  Far ahead of his time, he once lamented, “I wish I could conduct this [his Fifth Symphony] 50 years after my own death.”  Indeed, it took time for Mahler’s genius to be recognized, and it was about 50 years after his death that Leonard Bernstein brought his music back into the public eye, to great acclaim.

In anticipation of this grand concert, the GBS recently gave presentations at Bridge Academy in Bridgeport, introducing high school students to the music of Mahler.  The results were surprising, said GBS intern Yasminne Morgan, a sophomore music major at the University of Bridgeport who made the presentation.  “They came up with comments you would not expect from students who have no musical background.  Most of them liked the music, related to it, and compared it to cartoon soundtracks.”

“Those students are keen observers,” said Dr. Orin Grossman, retired music professor at Fairfield University.  “Many of the composers of that cartoon background music were influenced by Mahler, and came to the United States fleeing Hitler in the 1930s.”

On March 9, Maestro Jacobsen visited Bridgeport’s Central High School where he and Morgan talked to the students about Mahler’s music and its relevance to today’s music.  Jacobsen, a world-renowned cellist and conductor, who has toured with Yo-Yo Ma, will played selections on the cello.  Central High music teacher Colleen Filush says, “We're very excited to be able to partner with GBS for such a great opportunity.  Our students are rarely exposed to classical music in such an intimate way."

“Education is central to our mission as an orchestra,” said GBS Board President Jean Halaby Moffitt.  “We are happy to be reaching out to students – they are our future audience.”

Jacobsen was looking forward to bringing classical music to these students, whose music programs have been drastically cut.  Of this concert, he says, “There is nothing quite as epic as a symphony orchestra building a Mahler symphony.  It’s a journey like no other!”

The concert will be staged at the Klein Memorial Auditorium, 910 Fairfield Avenue, Bridgeport, on Saturday evening, March 12, at 8 p.m., with a pre-concert talk beginning at 7. Single tickets start at $29; mini-subscriptions are available for the remaining concerts of this season at 20%-off and are available at or by calling the GBS office at (203)576-0263.