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Clash of the Titans

We are going into 2006 in a spirit of triumph. Last week, the world began celebrating Mozart's 250th birthday. In Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is staging Wagner's mighty "Twilight of the Gods." And this weekend, the BPO and Music Director JoAnn Falletta are presenting a spectacular double bill, with Mozart's last symphony, nicknamed the "Jupiter," and Mahler's first symphony, known as the "Titan."

Mahler's masterpiece is one of the pinnacles of Romanticism. The first movement begins with the chirping of birds and builds to a clashing fanfare that makes you think of an army of knights. Next you hear a country dance, and then a haunting take on "Frere Jacques" along with a glimmer of nightclub raunch. The symphony incorporates the composer's haunting, lovelorn "Songs of a Wayfarer." But it ends in life-affirming strength.

Strength also resounds through Mozart's "Jupiter," one of humanity's crowning achievements. Mozart wrote his final symphony in C major, the key of truth and light. Like Mahler, he takes inconsequential themes and builds them into something magnificent. (One melody in the first movement was apparently based on a drinking song.)

The "Jupiter" features a hypnotic slow movement. The towering, haunting minuet pushes the envelope of the old dance form; you can almost hear the 18th century taking its last bow. And even in this age of technology, the last movement can pin you to your seat. It has a power and defiance approached only by Beethoven's greatest symphonies. Beginning with one quick, simple theme, it ends in a euphoric, amazing, astounding fugue that is a tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach -- and to life.

Words can't really describe these works. Hear them for yourself in Kleinhans Music Hall Saturday at 8 p.m. or Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Admission is $15 to $67. For information, call 885-5000.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

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