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Mmmm, Mahler. A music teacher once looked me in the eye and pronounced with stern and terrible solemnity, “There is much great music to explore, but Mahler—Mahler is the world’s beyond compare…” Then he clenched his hands into fists and rolled his eyes heavenward. I didn’t understand at the time, but now I do. Gustav Mahler’s Sixth Symphony is full of a terrible beauty, the reflection of an awkward genius of a man who insisted that his wife give up her own efforts at composition for fear of competition. Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, which will be joined by seasoned clarinetist Richard Stoltzman for the second half of tonight’s program, Copland’s Clarinet Concerto (originally written for Benny Goodman). At 8:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. $12-65. (202) 467-4600. (AD)