Author Topic: Mahler Mania, Rebooted  (Read 409078 times)

0 Members and 4 Guests are viewing this topic.

Offline relm1

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 913
  • Location: California
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4280 on: September 07, 2019, 03:53:19 PM »
Bump for a great composer.

I have gone in this past year from utter indifference to full-blown obsession with the music of Gustav Mahler. I think he is certainly one of the greatest composers to ever have lived, despite having only written a couple dozen works. Almost every single one of them is at least worthy, and most of them are phenomenal, important works of art. I think he is, alongside his younger friend Arnold Schoenberg, one of the most psychological composers in all classical music. His music is all symbols and archetypes and double meanings. Sometimes when listening to his music, I am almost embarrassed for Mahler the man, because he has laid down so much of his life in the music, and is almost "naked" on the pages of the score, but at the same time I am always in awe of Mahler the artist, as he has created with his sounds and symbols something so poignant, so universal that it speaks to me, a Millennial, born near a century after his death, on a direct, personal level. I think, barring all cultural differences, we would have gotten along.

When I was first turned off by (what I saw as) the grandiosity and self-importance of his music, I think I was completely missing the point. Whatever his lofty ambitions (to paraphrase his words to a young Jean Sibelius, "a symphony must embrace the whole world"), I think he was always writing a more personal, psychical drama. Likewise, I think people are wrong when they say that he is melodramatic or that he is a complainer (as far as his music is concerned anyway; I'm not familiar enough with his real-life persona to say). He is a realist; a magical realist. His music reflects his world, no more, no less. He is one of the larger-than-life characters in all music, alongside Beethoven, Wagner, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, etc etc.

Anyway, gushy essay over. I am listening to, for the first time, and enjoying the Bruno Walter/Columbia Symphony recording of Mahler's 1st symphony. The 3rd and 4th movements of this performance, I must say, are the best I've ever heard; only Kubelik's (wildly different) approach comes close. I think it really shows that Walter was a good friend of Mahler's, and idolized him as a conductor.

I have heard all of his symphonies but one: the 9th. I'm saving it for a later date and spending time with the other 8 (and DLvdE, perhaps his greatest work...?) for now. I will likely hear first the Bernstein/NYPO on Sony, as I love the rest of the set. Aside from this, what are some great recordings? I plan on checking out the Karajan/BPO live as I've heard great things about it.

Final note: I think his music does not benefit from overexposure. His symphonies must be taken in small doses, infrequently, or they can lose their power. Speaking for myself, anyway.

Well, I could go on and on about Mahler, but I'm going to stop now. Anyone else listening to his music lately...?

That is the thing about Mahler.  We are sort of like Roy Neary from Close Encounters of the Third Kind where everyone around us that we've known all our lives doesn't seem to understand what it is we've been privy to.  At first, I didn't like his music but when the light bulb went off, it was all consuming.  I've heard the same with others.  It is hard to explain other than to say he is probably the single most transcending composer ever.   For me, he was life changing, I hear that often in my line of work and there are many other very good (arguably great) composers you will never hear them described that way but Mahler's name is commonly referenced. 

I totally related to your post and how you described coming to understand his music.  I completely agree, he should be savored.  Not a fan of large orchestras putting on a symphony cycle in a month (LA Phil, Dudamel) I just believe this is music that should be experienced over years.  He is also one of those composers that I feel the need to revisit in different guises (interpretations).  There is no perfect version - his music supersedes all interpretations I have ever heard of it.  Some get it right in some places but none get it right throughout.  I keep hoping but haven't felt that yet.  I also lament the loss of his first four juvenilia symphonies that predate his mature "Titan" Symphony and hoping they might one day surface (I'm a dreamer and I know it's very, very unlikely).  Even if they are flawed, I haven't heard a single work of his that I didn't feel enriched from in some way. 

I do find his legacy very rich and strong with modern composers and in that I find enduring satisfaction.  It might not be overt, but it is detectable. 

Offline Madiel

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 7266
    • A musical diary
  • Location: Canberra, Australia
  • Currently Listening to:
    Whatever's listed in my blog.
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4281 on: September 08, 2019, 12:48:01 AM »
Gradually going through the Gielen set. And while I wouldn't qualify for full-blown obsession, I do generally agree with you and find Mahler an incredibly interesting composer. Who is best dosed on very occasionally.

Point of order, the "young" Jean Sibelius was only 5 years younger than Mahler. They're basically peers, though utterly different from each other.
I am now working on a discography of the works of Vagn Holmboe. Please visit and also contribute!

Offline vers la flamme

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 137
  • Location: Atlanta
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4282 on: September 08, 2019, 03:09:36 AM »
Gradually going through the Gielen set. And while I wouldn't qualify for full-blown obsession, I do generally agree with you and find Mahler an incredibly interesting composer. Who is best dosed on very occasionally.

Point of order, the "young" Jean Sibelius was only 5 years younger than Mahler. They're basically peers, though utterly different from each other.

That's fair. They do both represent the same turn-of-the-century era, though indeed in completely different ways. A 5-year age gap can be a big difference, but in this case both were at roughly similar stages in their careers.

How do you like the Gielen set? I've heard nothing but great things about the guy, but have heard none of his music. The only Mahler cycle I have is the Bernstein/NYPO/Sony, but I have tons of additional individual recordings of the various symphonies. I think I would benefit from an additional full cycle, I'm thinking Bertini or Kubelik, but I need to pace myself, maybe sometime next year.

Offline Madiel

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 7266
    • A musical diary
  • Location: Canberra, Australia
  • Currently Listening to:
    Whatever's listed in my blog.
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4283 on: September 08, 2019, 04:08:40 AM »
I'm attempting to reply and the site is going haywire. 403 Forbidden error.

Let me try again within this post and some plain text...

So far so good, though I'm the exact opposite: I have fairly few individual releases to compare with, some of which I haven't listened to for years and couldn't really tell you what they're like, and bought Gielen on the basis of reviews.

Some of the individual releases I do know well enough to remember, I haven't yet got to that work in Gielen's set so I'm not much use to you. Thus far I've only listened to the first 3 symphonies, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Des Knaben Wunderhorn.

I definitely got a lot out of the disc which has the Knaben Wunderhorn songs on it, and having Urlicht as the final song was... just magic. That was the transcendent moment thus far.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2019, 04:10:40 AM by Madiel »
I am now working on a discography of the works of Vagn Holmboe. Please visit and also contribute!

Offline vers la flamme

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 137
  • Location: Atlanta
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4284 on: September 08, 2019, 09:11:13 AM »
Awesome. Well, enjoy, my friend. You're in for a treat with the 4th, if you like the Wunderhorn songs. Mahler's 4th is the one that made me re-evaluate his music in the first place, as before that I'd only ever heard the 8th, and I was under the impression that Mahler was all doom & gloom & bombast. When I heard the 4th I realized that the key to Mahler's music was subtlety. It may still be my favorite, though I also love 1, 2, and 5 a great deal. I found 3, 6, 7, and especially 8 to be more challenging. I love all of the Lieder that I've heard. Hearing the Lieder cycles was what convinced me that Mahler was truly an important composer.

I do like what I've heard with Gielen. I think you probably made a good choice with his cycle, though there are too damn many out there for any one to be a definitive choice. Plus, the nature of his music rewards varying interpretations, I think.

Offline SurprisedByBeauty

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2385
  • Back. Hello!
    • Surprised by Beauty
  • Currently Listening to:
    anything from Monteverdi to Widmann and well beyond in either direction and everything in the middle!
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4285 on: September 08, 2019, 10:57:04 AM »
I'm attempting to reply and the site is going haywire. 403 Forbidden error.

I'm having the same problems. And the site is sloooooooooooow, for me.

Offline vers la flamme

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 137
  • Location: Atlanta
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4286 on: September 08, 2019, 11:44:23 AM »
GMG appears to be suffering serious server issues. This has been an intermittent problem ever since I joined up last month. I hope these issues are able to be overcome soon. This is a great site.

I listened to Klemperer's Das Lied von der Erde earlier. It was good, but I think I was not quite in the right mood. Anyway, I kept comparing it against the Haitink/RCO that I know and love. I'm sure I'll return in due time. Now, I really want to get my hands on one of Bruno Walter's DLvdE recordings. Someone should tell me which is the one to get...? Also, are there any fans here of the Reiner/Chicago DLvdE? I haven't heard it but I love his Mahler 4th.

Offline Brewski

  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 12017
  • "Man With No Shadow" by Makoto Tojiki (2009)
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4287 on: September 08, 2019, 11:49:31 AM »
I'm attempting to reply and the site is going haywire. 403 Forbidden error.

GMG appears to be suffering serious server issues. This has been an intermittent problem ever since I joined up last month. I hope these issues are able to be overcome soon. This is a great site.

Please see the "Bug report" thread in GMG News. Rob is on the case.

(But now, back to Mahler.  :) )

--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

Offline JBS

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1863
  • If music be the food of love, play on!
  • Location: USA
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4288 on: September 08, 2019, 12:05:55 PM »
GMG appears to be suffering serious server issues. This has been an intermittent problem ever since I joined up last month. I hope these issues are able to be overcome soon. This is a great site.

I listened to Klemperer's Das Lied von der Erde earlier. It was good, but I think I was not quite in the right mood. Anyway, I kept comparing it against the Haitink/RCO that I know and love. I'm sure I'll return in due time. Now, I really want to get my hands on one of Bruno Walter's DLvdE recordings. Someone should tell me which is the one to get...? Also, are there any fans here of the Reiner/Chicago DLvdE? I haven't heard it but I love his Mahler 4th.

I posted a comment in the main listening thread in reply to yours there...
But in respect to your post here...
I have Walter's recording with the NYPO [or the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, depending on which re-issue you look at], and it felt rather "meh" to me. Never heard the one with Ferrier and the VPO. Those seem to be the two main options, although there seem to be a couple of in-concert recordings available.

In fact, I have been underwhelmed by all of Walter's Mahler I have heard, except for the famous Vienna Ninth. Perhaps he was better before WWII?

As for Reiner..that recording was my very first Mahler recording, and I still like it very much, even with all the other recordings I have heard since then. Amazon shows an Archipel CD of a Reiner DLvdE in which Ludwig appears, not Forrester.

Offline vers la flamme

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 137
  • Location: Atlanta
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4289 on: September 08, 2019, 12:17:19 PM »
I posted a comment in the main listening thread in reply to yours there...
But in respect to your post here...
I have Walter's recording with the NYPO [or the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, depending on which re-issue you look at], and it felt rather "meh" to me. Never heard the one with Ferrier and the VPO. Those seem to be the two main options, although there seem to be a couple of in-concert recordings available.

In fact, I have been underwhelmed by all of Walter's Mahler I have heard, except for the famous Vienna Ninth. Perhaps he was better before WWII?

As for Reiner..that recording was my very first Mahler recording, and I still like it very much, even with all the other recordings I have heard since then. Amazon shows an Archipel CD of a Reiner DLvdE in which Ludwig appears, not Forrester.

Reiner's recording of the 4th was the first Mahler I ever listened to and enjoyed. He was a hell of a conductor, even if Mahler was not exactly his specialty.

Bruno Walter's Mahler 1st (Columbia SO, late 1950s-early 1960s, not sure specifics) is so good! I just got it yesterday, but I was really impressed. The finale finally made sense, and the 3rd movement was about as well done as I've ever heard it. As for his DLvdE, I think the Ferrier/VPO is the one I'm leaning toward, but I need to sample both. I think it's necessary to have one of his recordings considering he premièred the work. We don't always have the luxury of getting to hear recordings (especially in near-modern sound) from conductors who première such great works.

Thanks for the responses. I always appreciate having people to talk Mahler with, as my girlfriend can't stand Mahler and I don't have a lot of other friends into classical music, period.  ;D

Offline stingo

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 997
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4290 on: September 08, 2019, 02:00:37 PM »
I am pleased (and feel very privileged) to say I've heard Mahler's symphonies live in concert. Most have been with the Philadelphia Orchestra, but the standout was a truly marvelous performance of the 9th with the Utah Symphony Orchestra. I believe it was Keith Lockhart's final outing with the ensemble that led to wondrous, luminous performance that lasted well after the last note was played.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2019, 02:02:08 PM by stingo »

Offline André

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 7093
  • Location: Laval, QC
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4291 on: September 08, 2019, 03:02:58 PM »
A great experience indeed, Stingo !

Offline vers la flamme

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 137
  • Location: Atlanta
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4292 on: September 08, 2019, 03:49:25 PM »
Does anyone have a favorite singer of Mahler's Lieder? There are a few I really like: Christa Ludwig, whose Kindertotenlieder and Rückert-Lieder with Karajan/BPO is just phenomenal, and then Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who recorded a great Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with Kubelik and the Bavarian RSO. Hermann Prey's Wayfarer songs with Haitink and the RCO is also very good. Honorable mention to Janet Baker, who I need to hear more of. She is phenomenal on Haitink's Das Lied von der Erde, which is my favorite of the few recordings I've heard, largely because of her. There is a recording of her singing the Kindertotenlieder with the Israeli Philharmonic under the baton of Lenny Bernstein, as part of his Mahler symphony cycle that I own, and I have yet to hear it. I just might have to correct this in the morning.

Damn it, I was hoping I could avoid this, but I think I feel a slight resurgence coming on in my obsession with Mahler... I went a good month and a half without hearing any of his symphonies. :D

Offline JBS

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1863
  • If music be the food of love, play on!
  • Location: USA
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4293 on: September 08, 2019, 04:21:40 PM »
As I said the Purchases thread, Hampson's Ruckertlieder is I think the best recording.

DFD did an excellent one singer version of Knaben Wunderhorn, as well as participate in one of the best two singer versions (with Schwarzkopf).

For the piano versions--which for most of the songs were the original versions--I like Gerharer.

Online Jo498

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 4390
  • Location: Germany
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4294 on: September 08, 2019, 11:24:23 PM »
I have not heard Hampson but I think most of the Rückert-Lieder are better with contralto. I have Hampsons Kindertotenlieder as filler for the 6th with Bernstein and his piano accompanied Wunderhorn. Overall, I'd say he is good but not extraordinary. My favorite Hampson are the early Lieder in Berio's orchestration. (I think by now there are some other recordings of at least some of these but 20 years ago it was the first and only one; of course there are several of the original piano version)
The older recordings of Ludwig with Klemperer (?) on EMI are also recommendable. Another great contralto, Maureen Forrester, has done the Rückert with Fricsay (maybe hard to find, they were a filler to something else?) and what might still be the best orchestral Wunderhorn (with Rehfuss and Prohaska on Vanguard). I don't care for Schwarzkopf.
Another great but probably hard to find Wunderhorn is Baker/Evans/Morris although this is rough in some spots and especially Sir Geraint's diction doesn't make it a first recommendation. He yields to noone in sometimes rough characterization and even comedy as in the ass-cuckoo-contest
One CD version has a very nice "Gesellenlieder" with Roland Herrmann, but Fi-Di is also good in them as is Ludwig (although I prefer a baritone to contralto in this cycle.
And Baker/Evans do some of the songs (Schildwache Nachtlied, Lied des Verfolgten im Turm, Vergebliche Mueh and the Hussar's farewell (Wohlan die Zeit ist 'kommen) as "duets" which is philologically wrong. (I still like the theatrical effect although some find it silly)
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline vers la flamme

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 137
  • Location: Atlanta
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4295 on: September 09, 2019, 01:31:12 AM »
Well, JBS, I ended up ordering that Hampson/Bernstein/DG Lieder disc after reading your praise for it. I like what I heard and I found it for very cheap. I'll be excited to explore that.

I really need to get my hands on a Mahler Lieder disc with piano accompaniment! Looks like Gerhaher may be the one to get. I was also looking at the Janet Baker disc on Hyperion (?)

Offline Madiel

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 7266
    • A musical diary
  • Location: Canberra, Australia
  • Currently Listening to:
    Whatever's listed in my blog.
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4296 on: September 09, 2019, 05:17:51 AM »
I have the Janet Baker Hyperion disc, because it's the easiest way to get all of the early piano-based songs. To be honest I'm not sure that the songs besides Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (which is included) are anything special, and I mean the compositions rather than the performances. But if you want those songs it seems a good means of getting them.

I don't know what is "philologically" wrong with duet versions of certain songs that clearly have more than one character in them, someone will have to explain that one to me. It can't be any more wrong than having contraltos singing songs that have a male perspective.
I am now working on a discography of the works of Vagn Holmboe. Please visit and also contribute!

Online Jo498

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 4390
  • Location: Germany
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4297 on: September 09, 2019, 07:03:25 AM »
No. There is a clear difference. Many songs are singable by ONE male or ONE female voice (with transposition if octave won't work). But alternating singers as in an operatic duet would be clearly indicated in the score, it would say "duet for alto and baritone" not "song for middle/high/low voice" or whatever. There is nothing in Mahler's scores indicating that two singers should alternate in e.g. "Der Schildwache Nachtlied" (the guard and the girl he remembers or dreams about).
There are hundreds of songs with dialogues or more than one lyrical voice, like in Schubert's Erlkönig narrator, father, son and erl king are all sung by one singer. (There were orchestral arrangements using two in the early 20th century but even they didn't use 4 as the poem could suggest).
That's why it is wrong to alternate singers within one song. And I thought it was hardly done anymore nowadays. I have a soft spot for the practice in some songs (maybe because I got to know them with Baker/Evans) but it can also get silly to some extent. And there are other songs that are even more clearly dialogues where it is usually not done, e.g. "Das irdische Leben" and "Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen".
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline André

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 7093
  • Location: Laval, QC
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4298 on: September 09, 2019, 10:33:23 AM »
I have not heard Hampson but I think most of the Rückert-Lieder are better with contralto. I have Hampsons Kindertotenlieder as filler for the 6th with Bernstein and his piano accompanied Wunderhorn. Overall, I'd say he is good but not extraordinary. My favorite Hampson are the early Lieder in Berio's orchestration. (I think by now there are some other recordings of at least some of these but 20 years ago it was the first and only one; of course there are several of the original piano version)
The older recordings of Ludwig with Klemperer (?) on EMI are also recommendable. Another great contralto, Maureen Forrester, has done the Rückert with Fricsay (maybe hard to find, they were a filler to something else?) and what might still be the best orchestral Wunderhorn (with Rehfuss and Prohaska on Vanguard). I don't care for Schwarzkopf.
Another great but probably hard to find Wunderhorn is Baker/Evans/Morris although this is rough in some spots and especially Sir Geraint's diction doesn't make it a first recommendation. He yields to noone in sometimes rough characterization and even comedy as in the ass-cuckoo-contest
One CD version has a very nice "Gesellenlieder" with Roland Herrmann, but Fi-Di is also good in them as is Ludwig (although I prefer a baritone to contralto in this cycle.
And Baker/Evans do some of the songs (Schildwache Nachtlied, Lied des Verfolgten im Turm, Vergebliche Mueh and the Hussar's farewell (Wohlan die Zeit ist 'kommen) as "duets" which is philologically wrong. (I still like the theatrical effect although some find it silly)

+ 1 for the Forrester Rückert Lieder. She is in glorious voice and gets excellent support from Fricsay. It is available coupled with Prohaska’s excellent Das Knaben Wunderhorn (Forrester again, with the equally superb Heinz Rehfuss) on the Praga label. This is one indispensable Mahler recording !

+ 1 too for the Wyn Morris Wunderhorn !

Online Jo498

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 4390
  • Location: Germany
Re: Mahler Mania, Rebooted
« Reply #4299 on: September 10, 2019, 03:30:23 AM »
As for the early songs, I have not heard Baker's on hyperion (rather late in her career, I believe). They are not essential pieces but with a composer who wrote so litte as Mahler it, they are nice to have. And some are not inferior to the slighter ones from the Wunderhorn collection (like Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht or Verlorne Müh).
My favorites are "Zu Strassburg auf der Schanz" (the first "deserter song" by Mahler), "Nicht wiedersehen" and "Ich ging mit Lust" (similar mood and almost on the level of "Ging heut morgen übers Feld"). Then there are ones like the dead cuckoo whose tunes were re-used in symphonies etc. Anyway, the Hampson/Berio disc is highly recommendable.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)