The South Birmingham Sinfonia will be performing this work as part of the Summer 2014 concert.
Mahler composed his first symphony between 1887 and 1888, though he uses material previously composed, notably from "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen" (1883–1885). The incorporation of song, in the form of the traditional German Lied, is a major element of all of Mahler's symphonies and this is no exception, and despite the length of the work, it is tuneful and life-affirming throughout.
Mahler found much of his inspiration from nature and non-musical programmes, though ultimately he preferred to play down this element of his work, letting the music speak for itself. Nevertheless, the awakening of nature in the first movement, the country dance of the second, and the surreal funeral of the hunter (conducted by the previously-hunted animals) as depicted in the third movement are quite obvious. The third movement is also well-known for its twisting of the tune of "Frère Jacques" into a minor key and the extraordinary sound of a solo double bass. The final movement is a furious battle between the forces of the inferno and those on the side of the good, and ends with a triumphant march with theme strongly reminiscent of Handel's "Hallelujah" chorus from the Messiah.
More information will be put here in due course. Meanwhile, see the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._1_(Mahler) and make sure the 19th July 2014 is in your diary!