Mahler is such an important figure on this blog (and indeed in “Western civilisation”!) * that I thought I should offer a roundup of posts—my The art of conducting links to many of these, but it’s always good to remind ourselves of his astounding body of work.
Note the definitive four-volume study by Henry-Louis de La Grange—and online, his series here, with essays on all the symphonies (cf. conductors’ ideas). Norman Lebrecht, Why Mahler? (2010) is engaging and instructive. For recording guides, see here.
I began writing about Mahler with a post musing on performance practice, vibrato, and Daoism, and went on to offer reflections on the individual symphonies, all overwhelming in their different ways—with plentiful A/V embeds of some of the great interpreters like Bruno Walter, Bernstein, Tennstedt, Abbado, and Rattle:
- Mahler 1
- Mahler 2!!!
- Mahler 3
- Mahler 4
- Mahler 5 (for the Adagietto, see also Mahler swings!, and under Tampopo)
- Mahler 6
- Mahler 7
- (Much as I admire Mahler 8, I just can’t figure out how to write about it)
- Mahler 9
- Mahler 10
- Das Lied von der Erde appears under
Urlicht from the 2nd, and the Adagio of the 4th.
Here’s my detailed “programme” for the apocalyptic passage in the first movement of the 10th, with the “Scream”:
Now I don’t generally go in for this kind of thing, but after my recent visit to Sachsenhausen one might hear that short episode (under two minutes) as a graphic condensed soundscape foretelling the torments of Europe from c1930 to 1945—like deathbed episodes flashing past (timings as on the 1980 audio recording):
- 16.15 the descent into hell begins
- 16.44 rise of Nazism
- 17.06 brief moment of false hope (Weimar cabaret): desperate “Maybe we’ll be all right”
- 17.25 Kristallnacht; invasions of Poland and Russia
- 17.37 the concentration camp system
- 17.50 the horrors of the camps are finally revealed.
And most essential is the heart-rending song
Amidst all the pain and ecstasy of his searing vision, Mahler incorporates the sounds of popular, folk, and world musics.
Other posts of note include
- Chamber versions
- Piano rolls
- Mahler: quintuplets
- Melody: the major 7th leap
- Men behaving badly: Freud and Mahler. And Alma
- Mahler’s sculptor daughter Anna (with an exquisite documentary)
- Arnold and Alma Rosé.
Ending of the 9th, and Anna.
Of no consequence whatsoever is Mahan Esfahani’s mystifying incomprehension…
* The quotes there alluding, you gather, to the much-cited but elusive Gandhi story: when asked “What do you think of Western civilisation?”, he is said to have replied, “I think it would be a good idea”.