Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gustav Mahler

The composer died a century ago today. To commemorate his death, listen to his music, live or on record.

Around the blogosphere, many fine postings:
I heard Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony perform Mahler's Second and Sixth Symphonies the other week; they're now touring Europe with those and the Ninth.

You might read Henry-Louis De La Grange's enormous Mahler biography, or Alma Mahler's And the Bridge is Love. And be sure to listen to Tom Lehrer's "Alma," which was my long-ago introduction to Mahler ("Composer of Das Lied von der Erde and other light classics," as Lehrer described him in the spoken introduction to the song).

14 comments:

pjwv said...

I love how, in his spoken introduction to that song, Lehrer carefully lays the groundwork for his rhymes by letting us know that Mahler wrote a work called Das Lied von der Erde. That was before the big Mahler boom and I don't think he'd have to take the same precaution these days.

Lisa Hirsch said...

The song is total genius, and I have to now admit that I read And the Bridge is Love before I ever heard a note of Mahler.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I did eventually get the joke about "Composer of 'Das Lied von der Erde' and other light classics," of course.

pjwv said...

Having read And the Bridge is Love makes you sound like an incredibly dedicated Mahler completist!

Am I correct in guessing that the book is what we might call "a total hoot"?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Hahahaha. Yes on a total hoot. I read it in high school, when I was more easily shocked than I am now. She makes it quite clear who she was screwing when. Mahler: before the wedding, of course.

NO on completist! I haven't read ANY Mahler bios or even heard all of the symphonies! (I'm working on remedying that.)

pjwv said...

But that's the beauty of it -- it makes you *sound* like a completist, even if you aren't.

It would be kind of difficult to hear all the symphonies live, even with MTT and the SFS in the neighborhood.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Note that there was NO qualification when I wrote "or even heard all of the symphonies."

I've heard 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, of which 2, 4, 6, 7, and 8 were live. Never heard 1 live, I believe. The remainders (3, 5, 9, 10) I do not know at all.

pjwv said...

I did note that, but wasn't sure if there was an implicit qualification (the way I talk about "operas I've seen" and I usually mean "live").

So will I be seeing you at SF Symphony's Mahler 3 next season?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Oh....probably. :)

calimac said...

I've heard 1-4, 9, and Das Lied live. The first four were varying degrees of tolerable, annoying, and actually good. 9 drove me up the wall. Das Lied I'd do physical injury if I were forced to listen to it again.

So we know how much you know of Gustav; how about Walter and Franz?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Your opinion of Mahler is not exactly a secret. :) I found myself wondering if your feelings about both Mahler and Rothko represent something consistent in your aesthetic preferences: a strong preference for immediacy as opposed to process.

Lisa Hirsch said...

P. S. I know a lot more Gropius, and a lot more about Gropius, than Werfel.

calimac said...

No, I think the difference is that I prefer structure and coherence. "Immediacy" is not the first preference that comes to mind to describe someone who loves Bruckner, or could sit and listen to Steve Reich all day. Mahler's lack of structure and coherence are so extreme that his fans consider it not a bug but a feature, as illustrated by MTT as referred to in the post you linked to.

Steve Hicken said...

Well, one listner's incoherence is another's ellipticality (coin!).

And immediacy is one of the first thinhs I think of when I think of Mr. Reich.