Mahler's "Symphony of a Thousand" Fills Square in Ljubljana
A massive Slovenian-Croatian ensemble of 1,100 musicians performing Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8 filled the newly-opened Congress Square, the neighbouring park Zvezda and the surrounding streets of Ljubljana with countless spectators on Sunday evening.
"The Symphony of a Thousand", performed under the auspices of Slovenian and Croatian presidents Danilo Türk and Ivo Josipovic, opened with the anthems of the two countries as a sign of friendship between Slovenia and Croatia.
Some 5,500 tickets were sold for the seats, but the crowds also filled the surrounding areas to listen to 21 Slovenian and Croatian choirs, the philharmonic orchestras from Ljubljana and Zagreb, and eight solo singers from Slovenia, Croatia and Russia under renown Russian conductor Valery Gergiev.
The 90-minute concert was put on to observe the 20th birthday of Slovenia and Croatia, the 310th anniversary of the establishment of the Ljubljana Academia Philharmonicorum, the 130th anniversary of Mahler's work in Ljubljana, the centenary of his death and the 140th anniversary of the Zagreb Philharmonics.
The performance, which also raised the curtain on this year's Ljubljana Summer Festival, the most prestigious festival in Slovenia, was addressed by festival director Darko Brlek and Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković, who said Sunday's tribute to music and friendship would go down in history.
Gergiev told the press ahead of the concert that he hoped for more peace, understanding and cooperation among countries. Being a good neighbour is being a step closer to what we believe to be the future of Europe, he summarised the event's message.
Mahler (1860-1911) wrote his Symphony No. 8 in a hut at Lake Woerthersee in Austria in 1906 as a "message of love in times without love". One of the most notable pieces of classical music was first put on stage in Munich in September 1910 with 850 chorists.
The Slovenian-Croatian performance was recorded and televised by public broadcaster RTV Slovenija and will be repeated on Monday at the Arena Zagreb, which has a concert capacity of 24,000.
The event, at which donations were also collected for the families of the victims of the Slovenian independence war, was the first concert of the Ljubljana Summer Festival, which is to host 36 events and over 2,500 internationally acclaimed musicians and artists until 7 September.