No self-respecting Mahlerite in the region will miss a chance to hear one of the symphonies in live performance - not even in a season that promises to be a Mahler bonanza with performances of the 2nd and 8th symphonies in June. If you still needed convincing to attend the Mahler 3rd on Tuesday, December 13th, 8PM at the Kennedy Center, let me try to give a few additional reasons (although I shouldn't have to!):
1.) The Juilliard Orchestra may "only" be a student orchestra - but exactly these youth orchestras, drilled by an enthusiastic conductor for the performance of one specific piece, can often outperform their professional counterparts by some margin. Think of some of the performances that Welser-Möst, Claudio Abbado and Daniel Barenboim have tickled out of orchestras like the Gustav-Mahler Jugendorchester, EU Youth Orchestra or East-West Divan Orchestra. Rather than treating the music as their 9-5 job, these students are primed for the chance to perform in a great hall in front of a large audience. Enthusiasm and skills combined in such a way go a long way.
2.) James Conlon is a marvellous conductor who not only pays much attention to detail (thus meticulously preparing his band for this opportunity) but should know his way around Mahler very well. I've not heard his Mahler but I love him for the Zemlinsky revival that he led in Cologne, where he got to record quite a bit for that student of Mahler's and teacher of Schoenberg's. He is also a hot candidate for succeeding Leonard Slatkin, being one of the most eligible American conductors.
3.) The price is right. Between $20 and $28 for the best seats in the Kennedy Center is a tremendous bargain that just beckons being taken up on.