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The Boston Globe

Music

Classical notes

BSO trumpeter pulls out the old posthorn

The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s performances of Mahler’s Third Symphony this past March were notable for myriad reasons. They demonstrated, as well as anything last season, that the orchestra has maintained a high standard of ensemble despite, at that point, having been without a music director for two years. The concerts also fueled speculation that the conductor, Daniele Gatti, had an inside track on the music director job. (He didn’t; it went to Andris Nelsons.)

But the performances were important for another reason, one having to do with a solo that happens around the middle of the symphony’s third movement. Mahler wrote the solo for a posthorn, a brass instrument that originated in the 18th century and was used to signal the approach of mail coaches. The solo is played offstage by a trumpeter, usually on a trumpet or variant thereof, such as a flugelhorn or cornet. Many listeners at the BSO performances found an unusual degree of warmth, depth, and mystery in the solo. “The sound,” Jeremy Eichler wrote in a Globe review, drifted “in as from a distant world.”

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