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Mahler Mania, Rebooted

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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.


Yay! Finally a thread about Mahler.

Good plan IMO - thank you for not locking the other thread, as it has become very interesting.


--- Quote from: MahlerTitan on May 01, 2007, 07:15:50 PM ---Yay! Finally a thread about Mahler.

--- End quote ---

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.

I'd suggest listening to the Ruckert lieder too.


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