Imagine anybody telling Gustav Mahler that he had no future as a composer! The nerve! Unfortunately, this shining light of German music was no stranger to discouragement — in fact, it's a miracle he didn't give up at the starting gate. When Gustav was only 20, his music was already so misunderstood that a conservative jury refused to award him the coveted Vienna Beethoven Prize, plunging him into the depths of despair and a long stint in the theater, which he cynically described as a “prison sentence in hell.” But Mahler never gave up, and in 1889, at the age of 29, he composed his First Symphony. Unable to get anybody of note to perform it, he ended up conducting the premiere himself in Budapest. Mahler was sure the work would be embraced with enthusiasm, but instead, the public, according to one historian, “reacted with stupefaction that quickly gave way to indignation.” Critics screamed that the Symphony No. 1 — which we know today as “The Titan” — was “bizarre, cacophonous and vulgar.” Fortunately, the world eventually gave this masterpiece its due, and this week the amazing members of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra, led by new director Case Scaglione, will tackle The Titan — a titanic feat in itself for teen talents. And chances are they'll do just fine. Also on the program: Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, with 17-year-old soloist Connie Kim-Sheng, former YMF Concerto Competition winner, who's been blazing away at the ivories since she was 3½ and whose specialty is the romantic repertoire.

Sun., April 19, 4 p.m., 2009

LA Weekly