Author Topic: Reading Mahler Scores  (Read 16300 times)

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Greta

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Reading Mahler Scores
« on: June 04, 2007, 05:57:53 PM »
Hi Mahlerites!  ;D I've been working on getting the scores to the symphonies, now have #3-7 and am ready to dive in. I thought it would be nice to have a place where we wayfarers can share tips and interesting finds in reading Mahler's scores.

I'm sitting down with the 5th tonite and several recordings, I have numbered my measures beforehand (starting at #1 with each mvmt) and translated his German directions to English.

His scores have some challenges in reading, the density and complexity of the writing, and just trying to follow him when he has lines going in twenty different directions at once.

He often uses very specific tempo and expression markings, which have a certain flavor that I feel sometimes loses translation to English.

Any tips you guys can share from personal experience or recommendations of recordings that are good to follow the score by?

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2007, 01:45:50 PM »

Any tips you guys can share from personal experience or recommendations of recordings that are good to follow the score by?

Chailly's recordings are particularly transparent. Boulez is good too.

Sarge
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

Offline MishaK

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2007, 01:53:31 PM »
Chailly's recordings are particularly transparent.

And particularly transparently recorded, too.

Larry Rinkel

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2007, 04:47:49 PM »
Any tips you guys can share from personal experience or recommendations of recordings that are good to follow the score by?

You might try looking at the more lightly scored works first, such as the Rueckert, Wayfarer, and Kindertotenlieder cycles. The Adagietto of 5th and the whole of the 4th are also not as heavily orchestrated as some of the big works like 2, 3, and 8.

But in honesty, I doubt any particular choice of recording is the answer. The real question is how experienced you are in reading scores to begin with. One thing to remember is that even densely scored textures quite often reflect only several actual parts. Sometimes it helps to focus on a particular instrumental choir or even a single instrument when first reading a score.

mahlertitan

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2007, 04:51:23 PM »
i tried to read his scores once, but gave up in matter of minutes, too hard.

you should download noteworthycomposer, why? because you can read and hear the symphony at the same time!

Greta

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2007, 10:21:20 PM »
What fun this is! Already there's so much more I hear I didn't realize was going on until I saw it on paper. Mahler was so brilliant, I bow down.  0:)

I wanted to mention the book Gustav Mahler: The Symphonies by Constantin Floros that others have talked about on GMG, it really is an indispensable resource for this kind of study. The most important thing it addresses for me is Mahler's form (with measure numbers!) which helps immensely when wading through such long dense music. Mahler often twists and transforms his themes so completely by the end of a movement, this is tough to follow upon hearing but much easier to read about.

I have some experience reading orchestral scores and have taken orchestration, so following is okay, but trying to figure out how it all fits together with Mahler is the challenge. And I'm not great with other languages so I'm always trying to remember exactly what the score directions mean. Though I do have Dover Study Editions (which can be had quite cheaply through Amazon or EBay) which have a glossary for basic definitions.

I was so immediately fascinated with Mahler's writing and orchestration I knew seeing the scores I would be like a kid in a candy store. :D And I end up spending so long entranced with one part I haven't gotten through much of it yet! But last night I dove right into two "pieces of candy", the amazing Sturmisch bewegt of the 5th and the rousing Rondo-Finale of the 7th. Hmm, I guess I could've started off easier!

But you have a whole new appreciation for different recordings when you follow along with the score. That's another dimension I love about score-reading. I wish I had so much more time to do it! One thing I love about collecting is how conductors differ in their interpretations and considering the why behind their choices. Does he stick by the score or do something very different? And if he does, does he justify it? I'm tempted to go off onto the merits or interesting finds I've come across with some recordings I've used, but will get into it more sometime in the Recordings area. I think it's fascinating though, especially in cases where in instrumentation something is omitted, or added, I'm not sure what to think about that yet!

To clarify my question about recordings, for those familiar with the scores, who is especially idiomatic tempo wise? I don't have that many recordings yet (4 or so of each symphony) and was curious so I have some kind of general idea, I guess this might suggest a sort of middle of the road interpretation. There's my Mahler-blat for today...  ;)

PS - In the 5th, I saw the direction mit dem Bogen geschlagen - literally "with the Bows beat", is this the same as col legno?
« Last Edit: June 05, 2007, 10:22:54 PM by Greta »

The Mad Hatter

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2007, 09:37:18 AM »
I always found Mahler much easier to read than, say, Beethoven (first time I tried I got absolutely lost in the score of Beethoven's ninth). With Mahler, if you're not sure, just follow one instrumental line until you have things a bit more steadily.

PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2007, 10:11:42 AM »
I always found Mahler much easier to read than, say, Beethoven (first time I tried I got absolutely lost in the score of Beethoven's ninth). With Mahler, if you're not sure, just follow one instrumental line until you have things a bit more steadily.

That's what I do, usually I go with the first violins :)
Some I know the scores fairly well, like for the 2nd and 3rd symphonies if I listen for a minute or so I can flip to the score and find the right place.

Offline Marple

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2007, 01:34:38 PM »
Hello Greta!
This pdf has a list of terms used by Mahler : http://uiso.music.uiuc.edu/Mahlerterms.pdf

It is always nice to meet other Mahlerites! I'm actually studying his 6th symphony right now and it is hard work, but in the end when you get it right... It's fantastic!
For me when working with his scores it is important first of all to get a clear view of the form. When I have this I can start learning by heart which of cause is important if I want to conducting the work without the score.

About recordings. I would recommend Bernstein but I would wait before listening. One wise man once told me never to read scores and listen to the music at the same time. When you read and work with the score without music playing in the background, your ability to hear the notes, orchestration and the different colours of the instruments will automatic improve - and from a conductors point of view this is a very important ability. (I don't know if you're conducting too and therefore need this ability... but anyway...  ;) )

The symphonies of Mahler is an incredible world of stories being told in a wide range of time. For me it is fun and exciting to work with because there's always something new to discover everytime you open the score. And it is a challenge to get hold on to in every way.

I speak german so if you're having any problems with it I would gladly help. ;)

Larry Rinkel

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2007, 05:15:43 PM »
One wise man once told me never to read scores and listen to the music at the same time.

Other wise men say the direct opposite.

Bonehelm

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2007, 08:16:01 PM »
I thought Mahler only uses a few instruments at a time? That wouldn't be too hard to follow would it?

Larry Rinkel

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2007, 03:08:19 AM »
I thought Mahler only uses a few instruments at a time? That wouldn't be too hard to follow would it?

His textures vary considerably within any one piece. There are times his scoring is close to chamber music; at other times he uses massive tuttis.

PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2007, 05:14:33 AM »
I thought Mahler only uses a few instruments at a time? That wouldn't be too hard to follow would it?

Like most composers this is not the general rule. The opening of the second symphony has an extended celli/basses passage with the oboe and a few instruments popping in and out so it is quite easy to follow. The same symphony, at the beginning of the final movement, everybody kind of just burst right in, cymbal and all, and they are playing in two different time signatures so it is pretty chaotic. Mahler is incredibly transparent for the amount of sound he generates. You can hear about 80-90% of the details even without a score. But if you want to see his DIRECTIONS then you need a score. His directions are in German but I think most of the Dover scores have a little glossary in the front or back where you get the English translation as well so you are not hung out to dry.

greg

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #13 on: June 10, 2007, 08:38:45 AM »
now this is a nice thread!  8)

(where's 71db..... oh wait, he doesn't believe in reading scores, lol)

The Mahler scores I have are symphonies: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9, plus his song cycles which i haven't looked at in forever. I also have a piano reduction of the 2nd, and have studied the complete orchestral a lot, since it was in my old library. So to complete my collection, I pretty much just need symphonies 2 (full score), 7, 10, the Piano Quartet and also The Song of the Earth.  8)



Anyone else have the score to the 9th symphony? The Dover miniature is only $8, and most of his others are only $5.

Okay, now doesn't every agree that this symphony is supercomplex? The first movement has some of the slipperiest rhythms ever. There's even parts where he's using quintuplets, triplets and eights at the same time. It sounds like a jumble, but at the same time you can hear every voice.

But I have a question about the form of his movements. The first- is there actually something that could be considered a recap here? It kinda recaps, but it sounds more like it just keeps on recapping and then going through development.

And the last movement- I could just safely say the it doesn't recap at all, right? I like to think of it this way- three main themes/sections/whatever are exposed by mm.17, and that's the end of the expositon. Then from there starts the development, which continues until the end. Along the development, new themes are exposed and sections are sorta extended. I define theme A as mm.1-11, theme B as mm.12-44, and theme C as mm.13 -17. And what I mean by "extended" is that more material is added on when the secion is repeated, and the material may be free counterpoint or previous materal or motifs from A B or C. Just look at mm. 28-49. It's basically B being repeated but a lot of stuff added on, including new motifs which are restated later. I just think the whole "Exposition, Development" definition is an easier way to interpret the form, and then after that it's just details.

Offline from the new world

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #14 on: June 10, 2007, 10:52:11 AM »
I believe the finale can be described as a set of variations alternating over two themes, the full bodied first subject and the "deathly quiet" music that lacks espression. Though a rather good explanation is given in the archives on the Mahlerfest website, along with discussions of symphonies 5-7.

PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #15 on: June 10, 2007, 12:43:06 PM »
now this is a nice thread!  8)

(where's 71db..... oh wait, he doesn't believe in reading scores, lol)

The Mahler scores I have are symphonies: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9, plus his song cycles which i haven't looked at in forever. I also have a piano reduction of the 2nd, and have studied the complete orchestral a lot, since it was in my old library. So to complete my collection, I pretty much just need symphonies 2 (full score), 7, 10, the Piano Quartet and also The Song of the Earth.  8)



Anyone else have the score to the 9th symphony? The Dover miniature is only $8, and most of his others are only $5.

Okay, now doesn't every agree that this symphony is supercomplex? The first movement has some of the slipperiest rhythms ever. There's even parts where he's using quintuplets, triplets and eights at the same time. It sounds like a jumble, but at the same time you can hear every voice.

But I have a question about the form of his movements. The first- is there actually something that could be considered a recap here? It kinda recaps, but it sounds more like it just keeps on recapping and then going through development.

And the last movement- I could just safely say the it doesn't recap at all, right? I like to think of it this way- three main themes/sections/whatever are exposed by mm.17, and that's the end of the expositon. Then from there starts the development, which continues until the end. Along the development, new themes are exposed and sections are sorta extended. I define theme A as mm.1-11, theme B as mm.12-44, and theme C as mm.13 -17. And what I mean by "extended" is that more material is added on when the secion is repeated, and the material may be free counterpoint or previous materal or motifs from A B or C. Just look at mm. 28-49. It's basically B being repeated but a lot of stuff added on, including new motifs which are restated later. I just think the whole "Exposition, Development" definition is an easier way to interpret the form, and then after that it's just details.

First movement is sonata form, exposition is about 5 minutes long and the recapitulation is about 9 minutes long (you can hear it because it begins with the same theme in the second violins as did the exposition).

The finale is binary form, ABABABAB-coda.

Offline from the new world

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #16 on: June 10, 2007, 09:45:18 PM »
First movement is sonata form, exposition is about 5 minutes long and the recapitulation is about 9 minutes long (you can hear it because it begins with the same theme in the second violins as did the exposition).

Are those last 9 minutes not going to be recapitulation and coda?

PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #17 on: June 11, 2007, 02:48:37 AM »
I didn't hear a coda, not in the strict sense of the word, like establishing the tonality and all, but there is a brief passage at the end where the violin comes in with the little waltz theme which if you want you can call the start of the coda. But it doesn't sound like a coda.

Some people even argue that this movement has no recap at all, merely a 5 minute exposition follow by 25 minutes of development.

bwv 1080

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #18 on: June 11, 2007, 04:06:34 AM »
on one listen follow only the strings, another only the brass and so forth.  a c score would be ideal but to my knowledge all the dover scores are transposed

greg

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Re: Reading Mahler Scores
« Reply #19 on: June 11, 2007, 06:22:02 AM »
thanks everyone!  :)

Quote
First movement is sonata form, exposition is about 5 minutes long and the recapitulation is about 9 minutes long (you can hear it because it begins with the same theme in the second violins as did the exposition).

The finale is binary form, ABABABAB-coda.
i'll keep this mind, it's really hard to see how it works since the music in this symphony is hardly ever repeated in the same exact way. It's really hard to follow.

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Some people even argue that this movement has no recap at all, merely a 5 minute exposition follow by 25 minutes of development.
it would be easier to think of it this way  ;D

Quote
Though a rather good explanation is given in the archives on the Mahlerfest website, along with discussions of symphonies 5-7.
Cool! I just looked up "Mahlerfest" and saw some of the discussions. I've been looking for this type of stuff for awhile.