Author Topic: The Great Mahler Debate  (Read 87149 times)

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Greta

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The Great Mahler Debate
« on: April 21, 2007, 07:06:00 AM »
*This thread was originally called Mahler Mania, but the name has been changed to reflect the debate that began and that has become quite involved. Feel free to debate here Mahler's greatness, his connections with other composers, etc. here. It's a productive discussion.

Discussion of the works themselves (their themes, links between them, etc), his style/orchestration, events of his life and how they affected his music should be discussed in his main thread, Mahler Mania, Rebooted.

The original post follows unedited.*

Here's a new thread, for the new forum, to discuss the ever-fascinating (and highly addictive) symphonies and lieder of Gustav Mahler.  ;D

With the beginning of this year, I finally took the plunge and dived into Mahler's world, only previously being familiar with the 2nd and the opening Ven-i, ven-i cre-a-tor of the 8th, plus dazzling various snatches heard from radio. I ran across an estate sale in December of a band director who had a large classical collection (spanning the 40s until the present!) so I just kind of ended up with the Solti set and several of the other symphonies individually. I wish I had gotten the Mahler scores but they and some other recordings had gone to friends.

I put off the Mahler journey for a long time, too long, associating his works as being big and difficult listening. But maybe fate had known when I was ready, because though they're both of those things at times, now I find them immediately appealing and fresh, and begging repeated listens to catch the kaleidoscope of scenes flashing past. He was such a creative and unafraid composer - brilliant, full stop.

So I, like many, have fallen in love with his alternate reality - one of triumph, despair, bliss, and angst from minute to minute, exotic vignettes spanning east to west, as he aptly referred to, the whole world in a microcosm. Stunning to listen to, completely transporting, a whirlwind sweeping any preconceived notions out the window. Somehow one of everything (or even many) could never be enough, he had so much to say, and as a result, so do his interpreters. Soon you're salivating over the endless recommendations returned at Amazon, and you've just got to download that Boulez 3rd-Salonen 8th-Dudamel 1st at Operashare, and please-can-I-borrow that Kubelik? By then, write it off, you're a goner. :D

What is it exactly that inspires this kind of passion in his music? I often see cases of Mahleria around, and it always intrigued me, but now, yeah, I completely understand! It's hard to put your finger on the exact cause, but...for example, I'm in the middle of the last movement of the 3rd, and it's just devastating, so achingly gorgeous and painful. When I get to the end of a Mahler symphony, I feel exhausted and exhilarated, it takes all my effort to follow him on the voyage, but boy is it ever so rewarding.

In recent years, it seems Mahler is more popular than ever, I was reading posts at the old board, and there were no less than 7 members with Mahler in their name. 8) It's hip to be a Mahler fan now, his concerts are classical happenings, young conductors are much lauded if they can pull him off, a dearth of new recordings, when did Mahler become the hottest thing since sliced bread? Before the Bernstein era, Mahler wasn't nearly as popular, does he deserve the real credit for this renaissance?

In any case, we're spoiled for choices, recorded or live, and it's wonderful. I only see the Mahler trend growing. I'll post later about which recordings I have heard, but I still haven't taken on the 1st, 6th, 9th, or 10th at all, I tend to digest them in pieces rather slowly, and am currently involved with the 3rd and the 7th (which I adore). Also, I am reluctant for the Solti to be my first hearing for any of the symphonies with what I've read and my own experience. I began with the 5th and the 4th, and had other options, and was disappointed when I heard the Solti, not that it was bad per se as I greatly respect him, but a bit too blaringly obvious.

Postscript: As I've been writing this, I've been listening to a cracking live 3rd by Salonen from a friend, as I'm about to spring for his M3 with LA, but I don't have much information about this radio recording. I think it's surely mislabeled, as it says "London Symphony Orchestra" (don't recall him performing it with them?). It's conducted very much like the LA recording at least in the first movement from clips I've heard, and has some tuning problems and some spectacular brass flubs at the end of the Comodo, if that helps. But the interpretation is grand. I'll upload it sometime.

And as a sidenote, how do you pull this one off in a few days at 25 when you've never conducted it, incredible. Part circus, part tragedy, and so long and demanding. Now that I'm familiar with this work, I'm really in awe about that feat!


 
« Last Edit: May 01, 2007, 07:07:59 PM by Greta »

Offline knight66

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2007, 09:36:18 AM »
Greta, Excellent start to the thread. I don't write many in-depth reviews, but two of them have been Mahler discs. I agree it is addictive and narcotic. Some avoid his music as being hysterical. I recall bounding off the platform after a totally exciting orchestral rehearsal of the Eighth, the boyfriend of one of the other choral singers had been listening from the stalls. He deflated her by going into a tirade about how sick the music is, depressive...etc, etc...we warned her, but she still married him!

Mike
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Offline Brewski

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2007, 09:50:51 AM »
Sometimes I feel like I have to measure my comments on Mahler -- otherwise I would take too much time away from other, equally worthy composers who just happened to write in a different style.  ;D  But I do respond to Mahler's complexity, wrenching emotions, rapid changes of mood, strange juxtapositions, and his brilliantly unusual orchestrations with instrumental combinations no one else at the time was even considering. 

I love all the symphonies for different reasons.  Like many people, the first one I recall hearing was the Second, which just floored me with its scope: when we reached the blazing finale, I couldn't believe we had traveled so far from the first movement -- not to mention the sinister middle Scherzo.  As with many great composers, hearing his music not only gave me pleasure on its own, but changed how I look at music in general. 

--Bruce
« Last Edit: April 21, 2007, 11:42:44 AM by bhodges »
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mahlertitan

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2007, 11:28:28 AM »
yes

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2007, 01:24:51 AM »
I think Mahler just isn't for me. I am listening to his third and even Sibelius is better. Calling Mahler's music complex is weird.
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PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2007, 04:40:45 AM »
I think Mahler just isn't for me. I am listening to his third and even Sibelius is better. Calling Mahler's music complex is weird.

Wow, way to insult two great masters in one fell scoop !

So you don't think Mahler's music is complex? Let us take the Mahler 3rd that you are listening to. The 1st movement for all it's length is just sonata form expanded. Other composers use them 1, theme 2. For Mahler theme 1 is a musical section, not just a phrase - in this case the dark menacing music punctuated by the bass drum and trombones. Theme 2, or musical section 2, is the light march first heard in the winds. Each time these two sections get repeated more of them is revealed. It is a striking movement.

And how do you not like the Adagio Finale, a magnificently heartfelt 28 minutes of pure joy and beauty.

Obviously you don't understand Sibelius either by your comments.

Haffner

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2007, 05:13:17 AM »
I think Mahler just isn't for me. Calling Mahler's music complex is weird.





Hi db! Try Mahler's 4th, and get ready for the bliss-inducing 4th movement!

mahlertitan

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2007, 06:07:37 AM »
I am listening to his third and even Sibelius is better. Calling Mahler's music complex is weird.


People can accuse Mahler of many things, but this is the first time i have heard that his music isn't complex. Listen more of Mahler, especially try the 1,4,5th,9th symphonies. Listen to those thoroughly first, and tell us what you think.

If you have problems getting access to the music, PM me, i could provide you with some very easy links to some quality recordings.

-mt

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2007, 06:16:05 AM »
Wow, way to insult two great masters in one fell scoop !

Not at all. I don't want to insult anyone.

So you don't think Mahler's music is complex? Let us take the Mahler 3rd that you are listening to. The 1st movement for all it's length is just sonata form expanded. Other composers use them 1, theme 2. For Mahler theme 1 is a musical section, not just a phrase - in this case the dark menacing music punctuated by the bass drum and trombones. Theme 2, or musical section 2, is the light march first heard in the winds. Each time these two sections get repeated more of them is revealed. It is a striking movement.

Well, I listened Elgar's Marches last night (relatively simple Elgar) and I'd say it's 2-3 times more complex music than Mahler #3. Among other classical composers I find Mahler average in complexity.

The dark menacing part of the first movement has a lot of potential but Mahler does not take it to "the higher level". The result is like listening to a soundtrack of a movie. The light march sounds a bit embarassing.

And how do you not like the Adagio Finale, a magnificently heartfelt 28 minutes of pure joy and beauty.

I did not listen the more than the 1st movement. I'll check the Finale later...

Obviously you don't understand Sibelius either by your comments.

Or maybe I understand "too much" ?

Hi db! Try Mahler's 4th, and get ready for the bliss-inducing 4th movement!

Hi Andy! I tried to listen to 4th but the link didn't work!  :(
Spatial distortion is a serious problem deteriorating headphone listening.
Crossfeeders reduce spatial distortion and make the sound more natural
and less tiresome in headphone listening.

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Haffner

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2007, 06:30:07 AM »
Well, I listened Elgar's Marches last night (relatively simple Elgar) and I'd say it's 2-3 times more complex music than Mahler #3.
Hi Andy! I tried to listen to 4th but the link didn't work!  :(


Hi!

Elgar's Marches are of course excellent pieces, despite their relative simplicity (as you stated). I wonder if you'd feel the same way about Mahler if you heard the Bernstein-conducted perfomance of his 9th Symphony.

In regard to the 4th, you would be doing well to grab this work on cd...the Bernstein is the one I started with, and it's great. Here's a cheaper one, the soprano is outstanding:

http://www.amazon.com/Symphony-No-Blumine-Gustav-Mahler/dp/B000E8BKSY/ref=sr_1_3/102-9105012-6193707?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1177255766&sr=1-3

Offline The new erato

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2007, 07:10:16 AM »
71 dB, while I certainly admire your enthusiasm,  by your own admission in several threads there are lots of music, even mainstream works, you have not listened to, and a lot of major composers whose works you know onky superficially, so I wish you would be more humble in stating your opinions.

That you don't get a composer doesn't mean that he is less significant, complex (or whatever)  than the composers "you get", only that you, at this moment in time, given your personality and current state of personal development, personal  and listening experience (or lack of it), connects more to him than to other composers. Other people may disagrre with you, but to your dismay, there is a large probability that in ten years time you will disagree with your current self. You would do well to remember this when you post.

Offline knight66

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2007, 07:56:17 AM »
Perhaps he is redefining the word, 'complex'. Otherwise the comments seem not to be true.

Mike
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Offline 71 dB

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2007, 08:31:24 AM »

Hi!

Elgar's Marches are of course excellent pieces, despite their relative simplicity (as you stated). I wonder if you'd feel the same way about Mahler if you heard the Bernstein-conducted perfomance of his 9th Symphony.

In regard to the 4th, you would be doing well to grab this work on cd...the Bernstein is the one I started with, and it's great. Here's a cheaper one, the soprano is outstanding:

http://www.amazon.com/Symphony-No-Blumine-Gustav-Mahler/dp/B000E8BKSY/ref=sr_1_3/102-9105012-6193707?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1177255766&sr=1-3

Thanks for the link/rec. Andy!

71 dB, while I certainly admire your enthusiasm,  by your own admission in several threads there are lots of music, even mainstream works, you have not listened to, and a lot of major composers whose works you know onky superficially, so I wish you would be more humble in stating your opinions.

That you don't get a composer doesn't mean that he is less significant, complex (or whatever)  than the composers "you get", only that you, at this moment in time, given your personality and current state of personal development, personal  and listening experience (or lack of it), connects more to him than to other composers. Other people may disagrre with you, but to your dismay, there is a large probability that in ten years time you will disagree with your current self. You would do well to remember this when you post.

Stupid opinions are allowed only when they are not against general opinions. Canonic pieces can't be criticized, obscure works can. Dittersdorf can be laughed at, Mahler can't.

Sorry, I am a free thinker. I don't live by those rules...

I don't need to know every single work of a composer to evaluate him/her. When I heard Elgar's Enigma Variations I recognised his greatness from it and after ~10 years of enjoying his works I can only thank myself for being right. I have heard samples of Mahler's music and while being nice and pleasing music does not indicate anything really great. If Mahler sounded promising to me I would buy his symphonies but there are tons of more promising composers to explore, Dittersdorf being one of them.
Spatial distortion is a serious problem deteriorating headphone listening.
Crossfeeders reduce spatial distortion and make the sound more natural
and less tiresome in headphone listening.

My Sound Cloud page <-- NEW track "Yin Yang"

Offline knight66

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2007, 08:37:05 AM »
Mahler's music is deeply complex, which does not suggest it is good, but it being complex is a fact. It is the idea that Elgar's marches are more complex that is absurd.

Mike
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PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2007, 08:41:24 AM »
Not sure what "complex" means but my high school band can play Elgar's marches. I doubt most collegiate orchestras can successfully bring off a Mahler work.

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #15 on: April 22, 2007, 08:43:46 AM »
Mahler's music is deeply complex, which does not suggest it is good, but it being complex is a fact. It is the idea that Elgar's marches are more complex that is absurd.

Mike

Some movements/parts of Mahler symphonies may be complex but over 50 % of what I have heard is not complex. In fact the music sounds like it's in sleep and I am screaming please, wake up!

Complexity is not only the amount of notes/bar, it's about how much music you have per one note.

I don't dislike Mahler. It's just easy listening and I get a little bored for it's simplicity and tediousness.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2007, 08:53:17 AM by 71 dB »
Spatial distortion is a serious problem deteriorating headphone listening.
Crossfeeders reduce spatial distortion and make the sound more natural
and less tiresome in headphone listening.

My Sound Cloud page <-- NEW track "Yin Yang"

Offline knight66

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #16 on: April 22, 2007, 08:49:23 AM »
Complexity is not only the amount of notes/bar, it's about how much music you have per one note.

Oh......I see.


ike
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Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #17 on: April 22, 2007, 09:43:11 AM »
The wit and wisdom of our resident free-thinker, concerning the third-rate, simplistic composer Gustav Mahler:

Calling Mahler's music complex is weird.

I listened Elgar's Marches last night and I'd say it's 2-3 times more complex music than Mahler #3.

I have heard samples of Mahler's music and while being nice and pleasing music does not indicate anything really great.

There are tons of more promising composers to explore, Dittersdorf being one of them.

Complexity is not only the amount of notes/bar, it's about how much music you have per one note.

It's just easy listening and I get a little bored for it's simplicity and tediousness.



Somebody, anybody, please...bitch-slap this guy.

Sarge
« Last Edit: April 22, 2007, 10:42:56 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"

Online Que

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #18 on: April 22, 2007, 09:48:33 AM »
Somebody, anybody, please...bitch-slap this guy.

Sarge

Paging M forever........ ;D

Q

Offline BachQ

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Re: Mahler Mania
« Reply #19 on: April 22, 2007, 09:59:59 AM »
Well, I listened Elgar's Marches last night (relatively simple Elgar) and I'd say it's 2-3 times more complex music than Mahler #3.

Yep.  Ok.