Finding Heaven on Earth with Mahler and the Young Conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla

Mar 18, 2018

Mahler ends his Fourth Symphony with a song about child’s vision of heaven. Its messages about joy and music fuel the passion of one of today’s rising conducting stars. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more from Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla about Mahler, music, and life.


On Sunday, March 18th at 1 pm on WRTI 90.1, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts The Philadelphia Orchestra in a concert featuring Mahler’s Fourth Symphony.

It is super-serene; also very intimate and very optimistic.

In 1892, Mahler set a folk poem about heaven to music, later using it at the end of his fourth symphony.  The song and symphony reveal some beautiful secrets about life, says conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. 

“You have to read this piece as a Jewish Bible, from the end. Not only because the hymn, The Celestial Life, was written first, but because it is the clue to content of the piece.  This last verse is about music, and the very end is about the joy.”  It is, she says, “super-serene; also very intimate and very optimistic.”

Maestra Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla
Credit Vern Evans

Gražinytė-Tyla is also optimistic about the power ofmusic to connect people.  She’s the music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, where she believes in taking music beyond the concert hall.  “Going to the people, to kindergartens, to hospitals.  We must be as adventurous as we can in this very traditional world of classical music.”  

Born in Lithuania, Gražinytė-Tyla was formerly music director of the Salzburg State Theater and held assistant and associate conductor positions with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  She now conducts all over the world, and made her Philadelphia Orchestra debut this season.

Ebullient and enthusiastic, she likens music to a seed planted in the earth. "After a certain while ... you’ll see suddenly something coming out, and growing, growing!”  She grins, spreading her arms, “A tree with beautiful blossoms, delicious fruits!”

“This is the potential of music —what it can do with us!”