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The National Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin kick off the new year with a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 7. Although the orchestra has programmed a Mahler symphony annually since Slatkin stepped up to the podium in 1994, it hasn’t played No. 7 since 1979. The symphony’s charm lies in its simplicity. Lacking the choruses and solos of many of the composer’s other orchestral works, its moody Nachtmusik reveals the contemplative side of a man whose contributions to the symphonic repertoire are represented in 10 massively orchestrated opuses. The lecture “The Inner Life of Gustav Mahler” will precede the concert and will be presented by Mahler aficionado Gilbert Kaplan, whose fixation with the composer’s Second (“Resurrection”) Symphony led him to abandon his publishing career, study the work with Juilliard graduate Charles Bornstein, and then conduct it with numerous professional orchestras worldwide. Kaplan lectures at 6:45 p.m. and the NSO performs at 8:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall. $15-$65. (202) 467-4600. (Amy Domingues)