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Simon Rattle can be seen in a slight blur just behind the conductor’s podium, cradling a bouquet of flowers as he engages one of four standing ovations. Truth be told, despite his vast international renown of this star conductor — Martin considers Rattle to be one of the greatest living Mahler interpreters — I did not look at him for more than 30 seconds TOTAL in the entire 1.5-hour concert. My eyes were usually shut, or my head bowed forward or in clasped hands, so intent to absorb the full cosmic 3D-painting that Mahler unfolds so passionately for humanity. My head was just in such deep, riveted concentration and alignment with the music, that I didn’t want the gesturing or theatrics or personal charisma of even this world-class conductor to enter my head as I encountered Mahler’s vast prayer of farewell: a farewell to his own life, a farewell to tonality, and a farewell to nature, society, and all human relations.

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