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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mahler Passions Lead Dilettante to 'Resurrection'

Music plays a significant role in many of our lives, from childhood violin lessons to tapping the dashboard in time with a radio tune.

To "amateur" conductor and former publisher of Institutional Investor magazine Gilbert Kaplan, however, the work of composer Gustav Mahler inspired a passion that would carve him a significant place in the music world. "The first time I heard his music, it was like a bolt of lightning," he says. "I felt a connection that I can't explain."

Kaplan, who will join the Moscow Symphony Orchestra Tuesday night in a performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 2, the "Resurrection," began his love affair with this piece in 1965, at a concert conducted by Leopold Stokowski. Fifteen years later, Kaplan decided to act on his passion. He called the Juilliard School and began extensive lessons with the goal of mastering Mahler's "Resurrection." After a month of nine-hour daily instruction, Kaplan booked the American Symphony for a private concert at a staff party.

"It was strictly a private affair," Kaplan says with a modest smile, "but a few critics came in and I guess the comments were favorable."

The performance launched a sea of offers and Kaplan found himself in demand to deliver a symphony that The New York Times called "moving and majestic ? not so much an interpretation as an expression of Mahler's own intentions."

A member of several Mahler societies and publisher of "The Mahler Album," Kaplan has spent much time researching Mahler's life and music.

"Mahler's music has always been about the expression of feelings," Kaplan says. "What often separates conductors in Mahler is how much interest they have in the emotional dealings of the piece. I don't regard myself so much as a conductor: The driving force was always the music itself."

He has conducted Mahler's Symphony No. 2 some 38 times, including five visits to Russia, conducting the Novosibirsk Symphony in Siberia, the Kirov in St. Petersburg, the Russian National Orchestra and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic.

Kaplan says the Moscow Symphony Orchestra is one of the most experienced in dealing with Mahler. "These are extremely gifted musicians, and the rehearsals are very exciting. I think the second symphony is very much on target for Russia at this time; it is, after all, called the 'Resurrection' symphony. Resurrection is self-renewal, which is what this country is striving for right now."

Gilbert Kaplan is conducting Mahler's Symphony No. 2 Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Conservatory Great Hall, 13 Bolshaya Nikitskaya. Tel: 229-9401/7412, 299-3681/3957. Nearest metro: Pushkinskaya.