By Doug Hissom Special to Published Jul 12, 2007 at 9:15 PM

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will close its 50th anniversary season and Andreas Delfs' last performance with the MSO with one of the giants of all symphonies -- Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8, also known as "The Symphony of a Thousand."

Delfs confirmed the show, scheduled for June 2009, at a recent post-performance talkback last month. He has been MSO conductor since 1997.

"This is a huge, huge, huge story," says one MSO regular. "It's the most goddamned thing ever written for the symphonic repertoire."

It's called "The Symphony of a Thousand" because of the sheer numbers of performers needed to pull it off, with at least two choirs including a full orchestra plus side players. The last time it was heard in these parts was in 1996, when Christoph Eschenbach conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Medina Temple in Chicago.

Mahler, who wrote the piece in six weeks in 1906, called it his "greatest work."

According to Tony Duggan on, Mahler was troubled by failing health and, "At its legendary Munich premier, which didn't take place until four years later in 1910, the Eighth proved to be the triumph of his life. This was the most immediately accepted of all Mahler's works and, as he himself predicted to Willem Mengelberg, also the most easily understandable."

Duggan continues, "The Eighth is at base a statement of Mahler's personal aspirations: a belief in the ability of the inspired spirit to lift mankind to the highest plain of achievement through Love in all its aspects and embodied specifically in ‘The Eternal Feminine' which, for Mahler, meant his wife, Alma, to whom the work is dedicated."

Doug Hissom Special to
Doug Hissom has covered local and state politics for 20 years. Over the course of that time he was publisher, editor, news editor, managing editor and senior writer at the Shepherd Express weekly paper in Milwaukee. He also covered education and environmental issues extensively. He ran the UWM Post in the mid-1980s, winning a Society of Professional Journalists award as best non-daily college newspaper.

An avid outdoors person he regularly takes extended paddling trips in the wilderness, preferring the hinterlands of northern Canada and Alaska. After a bet with a bunch of sailors, he paddled across Lake Michigan in a canoe.

He lives in Bay View.