The Rise of a Musical Superpower

Mahler's Eighth may or may not be the greatest symphony ever composed, but it's surely the loudest: at its premiere in Munich in 1910, the impresario called it with Barnumesque flair the "Symphony of a Thousand" to convey the immense scale of the work, which requires a double orchestra, a pipe organ, three large choirs and eight vocal soloists. At a performance of the piece last month by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, the forces were just shy of 500, more than enough to achieve the sense of grandeur that Mahler envisioned. In the finale, when the massed musicians joined in a...

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