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05/27/2014 | Created by Darla Martin Tucker

The symphonic works of Gustav Mahler, a renowned Jewish composer and conductor of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, are known for their majesty, richness, eclectic instrumentation, musical range and mystery.

Dean Anderson directs the La Sierra University Orchestra in an April performance. (Photo by Natan Vigna)

Most of the symphonies initially received criticism and were banned during the Nazi regime, but in later decades gained popularity through the advocacy of noted composers and conductors and a new generation of listeners. “It is a continuous journey discovering his music, with its majestic themes and its spirituality,” said La Sierra University Orchestra Conductor Dean Anderson. “It embodies the whole human experience, finding faith, hope and joy amidst a world of despair and tragedy.”

On Sun., June 8 Anderson will give regional classical music lovers the opportunity to embark on their own journey of discovery of Mahler’s famed works when he leads approximately 80 musicians in a performance of Mahler’s “Symphony No. 5.” The group is comprised of members of the La Sierra University Orchestra and Symphony Irvine and will perform as part of the Annual Mahler Festival, a yearly event Anderson spearheaded in 2009.

The Mahler Festival will be held in the Troesh Conference Center of La Sierra’s Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business at 7 p.m.

This fifth festival year showcases the 5th symphony and is initiated and supported by Symphony Irvine which Anderson also directs. The previous four festivals featured the first four Mahler symphonies and were supported by Montage Arts, an independent private arts organization.

Anderson said he organized the Mahler Festival because he perceived the benefit musicians would derive from the rehearsal and performance of Mahler’s great symphonies, but realized many music programs in the region lack the requisite resources for tackling such grand works on their own. For instance, Mahler’s “Symphony No. 3” requires a boys’ chorus, a women’s chorus and massive orchestration including eight French horns. The symphony, performed for the Mahler Festival two years ago, is also 90 minutes long. “That symphony is still the record holder for the longest symphony in the standard repertoire, so endurance was a huge factor,” said Anderson.

Symphony Irvine is a professional-level ensemble based in the city of Irvine and composed of volunteer musicians from Orange County and beyond. Anderson began rehearsing “Symphony No. 5” with La Sierra’s orchestra the first week of May, and with Symphony Irvine players this week. The two groups will rehearse together twice prior to the concert. “Each of the Mahler symphonies are very challenging for all sections of the orchestra,” Anderson said. “Now we are on Mahler’s 5th, which represents his departure from a ‘vocal-based’ influence to a pure symphonic presentation, which means even more challenging symphonic writing by means of key modulations, motivic development, and more virtuosic passages for all sections of the orchestra.”

Annual Mahler Festival tickets are available at a pre-concert discount of $10 general admission and $5 for seniors and students. Day-of-event tickets are $15 general admission, $10 seniors, and $5 students. For additional information and ticket reservations contact the music department at, 951-785-2036, or by email at