“The rubato is essential when conducting Mahler”
Do you remember the first time you heard Mahler’s music?
Honeck: I remember it very well. I was a member of the Austrian Youth Orchestra; we went to Berlin to participate in the Karajan Competition. Several youth orchestras from all over Europe were taking part; I heard the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie performing Mahler’s 1st Symphony. I was extremely impressed right away, not only by the big sound – other symphonies have a big sound too – but also by the way Mahler treated the darkness and the special significance of his music, particularly in the third movement.
It might have something to do with my own experience of losing my mother. She had nine children. I took part in the funeral, of course, and the way it was conducted reminded me a little bit of this music. I must have been 13 or 14 years old at the time and it was remarkable. It was probably one of the most important moments for me. I was almost shocked that this could happen with music, that it could come into my life and into my heart, where it has stayed ever since.