Author Topic: Mahler Mania, Rebooted  (Read 316107 times)

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Greta

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Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« on: May 01, 2007, 08:06:38 PM »
2nd try...this thread is to discuss the life and the works of the one-in-a-million composer Gustav Mahler. The original thread turned into an interesting and involved debate about Mahler vs. other composers, and the connections between, and it seemed best to leave that thread for debate and create another one for discussion as I think there's a lot to be gained from both sides.

Please, try to stay on topic - this makes the discussion more useful and pleasant for everyone. Obviously the people in the thread love his music, you'll know if this is the place for you or not. ;) If things start getting too heated or far afield, please take it to the The Great Mahler Debate.

For discussing recordings of the symphonies I also want to mention this thread:
Mahler Symphonies - Help

Thanks in advance!

To start off the discussion, I've been working my way through his works this year and he has steadily risen to one of, or maybe my favorite, composers. My favorite lieder of his so far are Das Lied von der Erde (Song of the Earth) and Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer).  My favorite of his symphonies are the 3rd and the 5th, closely followed by the 7th. His 5th was really a pivotal moment in his writing. I'm now going to concentrate on getting to know the 6th and 9th, by golly, if can ever get off the first two I named!

I approached the symphonies in this order, based on perceived difficulty, randomness, and what I had available: 5th, 4th, 8th, 2nd, 7th, 3rd, 10th, 9th, 6th, with lieder sprinkled between. Definitely a lot of connections between his lieder and the symphonies, I'm going to revisit the lieder soon to explore them more.

I'm also currently reading the book Mahler: The Man and His Music by Egon Gartenberg and ordering some of the scores. Fascinating stuff. So much of what's going on in his music is still a vast mystery to me, it seems even the scholars don't know quite what was behind his thought processes at times. ;)

Only now do I realize what a great conductor he was as well. I'm really enjoying reading about that aspect of his life. It's such a shame he didn't live longer, we might've had some recordings of his symphonies with the New York Phil...

Okay, please follow the guidelines, and let the discussion begin anew.

-Greta

mahlertitan

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2007, 08:15:50 PM »
Yay! Finally a thread about Mahler.

Offline Lethevich

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2007, 08:39:34 PM »
Good plan IMO - thank you for not locking the other thread, as it has become very interesting.
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Greta

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2007, 10:30:30 PM »
Yay! Finally a thread about Mahler.

And only about Mahler! :)

I had planned to get into the 6th a lot tonight, but I'm sitting here spellbound by a live performance from Vienna of the 5th with Eschenbach and Houston. (From Operashare) How I wished I had been older during his tenure so I could have seen him with them more!

The sound quality and performance are simply incredible. I love this symphony so much. One the BEST openings ever. So startling and dramatic (love the horn trills!) I especially like it when the funeral march is not too fast. Wow, a great performance of this really makes a difference. Previous ones I've heard were Levi/Atlanta, Solti/CSO and Karajan/BPO, but none made the music grab me so much.

His themes are really beautiful here. Those passionate cries full of chromaticism after the opening march, wow, it simply explodes. Truly amazing writing. It's very interesting how he's in minor, and then will suddenly have a fanfare (the one at the end of that first big outburst) end on major chords, like the dark side's devilish false triumph.

I think my favorite movement is the 2nd, there's so much going on, the alternation between the storm and a graceful waltz that progressively becomes more strained until it bursts into a tirade again culminating in those 4 bass drumbeats (you expect a fifth but it comes several measures later). Brilliant. Then back to this ravishing, spiraling dance fluctuating between nostalgic and sinister. Highly romantic music here too. There's some interesting links that start to happen between his middle symphonies. Sometimes I hear things that hint in this symphony to his 7th, and look back to his 4th.

The Scherzo is really fun, so Viennese. I love to see the horn featured and it can be very haunting when played well. I don't have the score yet, those 4 horns that play the same note in succession (5 mins in), is one of more of those stopped? In some recordings the 1st and 3rd notes sound that way.

And of course, the Adagietto is sublime, it seems to breathlessly hover on the edge of another world. One of the most beautiful adagios I can think of. The harp is used so elegantly. In some recordings this movement is interpreted more painfully, but here it floats effortlessly to heaven. I'm thinking I should get a Bernstein recording, as he loved this symphony so much, but I'm wondering how he approached this movement especially. It could easily become sappy and wallowing (and far too slow). For me this one is just right when it walks that very fine line.

The Rondo-Finale is charming, looking fondly back toward his 4th Symphony and ending with that glorious chorale,  that reminds me of Wagner's Tannhauser. It's really an amazing work, there's a lot to study in it.

I wonder if he was thinking of his love for Alma in writing the Adagietto, there seems to be some debate on this among scholars. There is an anecdote I've seen that he wrote it to her as a love letter, with no words, but it's apparently not corroborated in her writings.


Offline stingo

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2007, 03:30:52 AM »
I'd suggest listening to the Ruckert lieder too.

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2007, 03:53:44 AM »
It's...it's, so quiet here, so peaceful! Are we sure this is a Mahler thread?
;D

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"

karlhenning

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2007, 03:55:30 AM »
It's...it's, so quiet here, so peaceful! Are we sure this is a Mahler thread?
;D

Almschi Acres . . . .

Harry

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2007, 05:24:37 AM »
It's...it's, so quiet here, so peaceful! Are we sure this is a Mahler thread?
;D

Sarge


She will have some serious talking, my fellow posters. ;D

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2007, 05:56:30 AM »

She will have some serious talking, my fellow posters. ;D

I know, I know. I'll have something serious to say soon, I promise.

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"

karlhenning

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2007, 05:59:51 AM »
Although the two pieces are perfectly distinct 'sound planets' . . . there is a recurring horn-call in the third movement of the Shostakovich Tenth Symphony which recalls the opening of Das Lied von der Erde.

Das Lied von der Erde is one of those rare Mahler works which captivated me completely on the first hearing.

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2007, 11:56:25 AM »
Although the two pieces are perfectly distinct 'sound planets' . . . there is a recurring horn-call in the third movement of the Shostakovich Tenth Symphony which recalls the opening of Das Lied von der Erde.

Das Lied von der Erde is one of those rare Mahler works which captivated me completely on the first hearing.

I'm listening to the Tenth now (Karajan) and yes, that horn call does remind me of Das Lied. Interesting.

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 Sergeant Rock

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2007, 12:35:06 PM »
And only about Mahler! :)

And of course, the Adagietto is sublime, it seems to breathlessly hover on the edge of another world. One of the most beautiful adagios I can think of.

I couldn't agree more.

The harp is used so elegantly. In some recordings this movement is interpreted more painfully, but here it floats effortlessly to heaven. I'm thinking I should get a Bernstein recording, as he loved this symphony so much, but I'm wondering how he approached this movement especially. It could easily become sappy and wallowing (and far too slow). For me this one is just right when it walks that very fine line.

As a funeral dirge...so you might not appreciate Lenny here. His reading takes 11:13. Me, I can listen to it played at any tempo but my desert island Adagietto is Herman Scherchen's at 13:07. I prefer it played, not as a simple interlude, quickly done away with, but as a major Mahlerian statement of world-weariness and loss.

And only about Mahler! :)
I wonder if he was thinking of his love for Alma in writing the Adagietto, there seems to be some debate on this among scholars. There is an anecdote I've seen that he wrote it to her as a love letter, with no words, but it's apparently not corroborated in her writings.

I doubt the Adagietto was a musical love letter. The Adagietto and the Lieder Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen share themes and to my ears express the same feelings. It seems a very strange way to profess love by using a song that says, "I have lost track of the world with which I used to waste much time...I am dead to the world...I live alone in my heaven, in my loving, in my song." Alma would have recognized the origin of the music; would have known the lyrics. I can't imagine her being pleased with the association.

The story didn't come from Mahler or Alma, but from Mengelberg. What really makes me doubt it is the fact Alma never mentioned it. She was an expert at self-promotion and enjoyed being Mahler's muse. Why would she remain silent? I think she would have taken every opportunity to tell anyone who would listen: "You know, my Gustav wrote that for me."

Sarge
« Last Edit: May 02, 2007, 12:39:02 PM by Sergeant Rock »
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"

Greta

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2007, 02:35:32 AM »
Sarge, I listened to the Ruckert-Lieder last night a couple of times through with the text. Indeed the Adagietto shares much in common with "I Have Lost Touch with the World". I also think it is not very likely it was for Alma, though he was deeply in love at the time he was writing and that may have led to its highly expressive and dreamy nature.

That song is my favorite of the Ruckert, quite profound and so beautifully set. Also "At Midnight" I love and "Do Not Look Into My Songs!".  ;D

I going to see if I can roust up some more 5ths this weekend, and mean to take on trying to get to know the 6th. I think his 6th and 7th are the hardest to get to know for me, but they're great. Wild as he**. 3rd was hard too. I spent ages on it (and have the Salonen arriving soon, so will be going back for more).

I have Solti/CSO and Bernstein/VPO to listen to, and a friend had Mackerras with the BBC Phil, didn't even realize he recorded it. Mackerras and Mahler...wow, I'm looking at Google and it looks like he's recorded almost a whole set, or at least half. I never have heard anything about his Mahler though!  :o

Now tell me...is Zander's 6th really this good? High Fidelity Review

Telarc SACD, and with the Philharmonia, stunning I'm sure. Comes with an extra disc of lecture too. Lot of hype around Zander, this reviewer says: "After being swept along by his enthusiasm, you too may begin to wonder if Zander isnít the next Bernstein." High praise indeed.

karlhenning

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2007, 03:55:11 AM »
Oh, praise rather too high, I think.  Ben Zander has his musical virtues, but "the next Bernstein" . . . come, how could he be?

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2007, 06:26:09 AM »

Now tell me...is Zander's 6th really this good? High Fidelity Review
Telarc SACD, and with the Philharmonia, stunning I'm sure. Comes with an extra disc of lecture too. Lot of hype around Zander, this reviewer says: "After being swept along by his enthusiasm, you too may begin to wonder if Zander isnít the next Bernstein." High praise indeed.

It simply demolishes all competing recordings of Mahlerís 6th in terms of sonics. In this recording Telarc has captured a sound both red-blooded and gorgeously atmospheric. If the previous Zander/Philharmonia Telarc release on SACD (Mahlerís 5th) was a bit bass-shy, the new recording captures the voice of the orchestra like no other Iíve ever heard, from deep rumbling bass to crystalline highs.--High Fidelity

In particular, the orchestra's weak trombones, tuba, and lower strings fail to give the music the solid bass lines it requires. Page after page of fortissimo writing cries out for greater force and clarity at the lower end of the sonic spectrum... At lower dynamic levels, the sound loses body and texture, and numerous details go missing--Classics Today

Aren't reveiws helpful? ;D

I'm somewhere in the middle: I'm not gaga over it like High Fidelity but I think it deserves a higher rating than Hurwitz gives it. There are some incredibly beautiful things about it. Hurwitz thinks the pastoral section has a glacial pace...I think it's utterly haunting at this speed, maybe the best I've ever heard. The musical pulse almost comes to a complete stop but that suspension of time is magical with the cowbells perfectly placed in the picture. Zander's Andante is nearly as beautiful as Karajan's, and slower than Barbirolli! I usually prefer things on the slow side and for me Zander paces it just right. He really milks it (milks those cows, so to speak ;D ) with lots of expressive molding and rubato. It has tremendous emotional impact Timings for the versions of the Andante that I own:

Karajan       17:10
Zander        16:23
Bernstein     16:16
Bertini         16:16 
Barbirolli      16:03
Solti           15:34
Sanderling   14:53
Boulez        14:47
Chailly        14:40
Szell           13:30
Kubelik        11:35

Zander's Finale is almost as slow as Barbirolli's although it seems to me considerably tamer. There's some interesting details, though, that I don't recall noticing in other versions. It just doesn't have the visceral punch of a Bernstein or Solti though. I appreciate the inclusion of the third hammerblow...and the hammerblows themselves are STUNNING! Best ever...the way I always imagined them. Just beware you don't destroy your speakers...or your ears if you use headphones! The problem is Zander makes nothing of the approach to those first two thrunder cracks; the music just doesn't carry much weight or sense of unstoppable, optimistic momentum the way it should; the blows seem to come out of nowhere, and fit nowhere. The music really takes off after the second one, though, and I enjoyed the ride all the way to the third blow (less powerful than the previous two, just as Mahler requests)

The major disappointment for me is the first movement. It didn't grab me until that central pastoral episode. The fate motive goes for nothing; has no sense of foreboding. And it's this movement especially where I noticed the weak brass that Hurwitz complains about (I'd add backwardly placed horns too) and really, when the miusic gets soft it practically disappears. You need to crank up your system considerably to keep any kind of presence.

I'm glad I own this (especially for that wonderful Andante and some interesting details he unearths) but it doesn't displace my favorite recordings: Solti, Karajan, Szell, Chailly.

Sarge
« Last Edit: January 10, 2009, 05:28:45 AM by Sergeant Rock »
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"

karlhenning

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #15 on: May 03, 2007, 06:28:57 AM »
Very interesting, Sarge, thank you!

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #16 on: May 03, 2007, 06:37:19 AM »
Very interesting, Sarge, thank you!

I revised it somewhat, Karl. You might want to reread the part about the third hammblow.

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"

Drasko

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #17 on: May 03, 2007, 06:44:33 AM »
Timings for the versions of the Andante that I own:

Karajan       17:10
Zander        16:23
Bernstein     16:16
Bertini         16:16 
Barbirolli      16:03
Solti           15:34
Sanderling   14:53
Boulez        14:47
Chailly        14:40
Szell           13:30
Kubelik        11:35

Sinopoli 19:53

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #18 on: May 03, 2007, 06:49:55 AM »
Sinopoli 19:53

Really?... I've got to hear that.

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"

karlhenning

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Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #19 on: May 03, 2007, 06:50:45 AM »
Noted, Sarge, thanks!

Sinopoli 19:53

Zowie, Milos!

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