Our privacy policy was last updated on Friday 25 May 2018View it hereDismiss
Bachtrack logo
Home
What's on
Reviews
Articles
Video
Site
Flag of Austria

Composer: Mahler, Gustav (1860-1911)

April 2019
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
29300102030405
06070809101112
Evening performance
Matinee performance
Upcoming eventsSee more...

BilbaoMahler 5 con Inbal

Mahler 5 con Inbal
Mahler: Symphony no. 5 in C sharp minor
Bilbao Orkestra Sinfonikoa; Eliahu Inbal

ChicagoCancelled due to strike by CSO musicians: Mahler 1

Elgar, Mahler
Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider; Gautier Capuçon

GothenburgMahler with Blomstedt

Haydn, Mahler
Gothenburg Symphony; Herbert Blomstedt

Hong KongMahler $200: Symphony no. 7

Mahler: Symphony no. 7
Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra; Jaap van Zweden

GothenburgMahler with Blomstedt

Haydn, Mahler
Gothenburg Symphony; Herbert Blomstedt
Latest reviewsSee more...

Believing in the music: Martin Fröst and the RSPO

Martin Fröst © Mats Bäcker
Works by Rolf Liebermann, Mozart and Mahler recently brought down the house at Zurich’s Tonhalle Maag, in no small part because of Martin Fröst’s illuminating performance.
*****
Read more

Leonine masterpieces from the Malta Philharmonic

Guy Braunstein © Boaz Arad
The pairing of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony with the Violin Concerto of Brahms felt conspicuously like a calling card from an orchestra that sees itself as a contender for wider recognition, on this showing with good reason.
***11
Read more

Dutch Masters: The welcome return of Introdans to London

Introdans in Polish Pieces © Hans Gerritsen
A seamless aesthetic of elegant and fluid dance, impressive musicality and impactful design 
***11
Read more

Bohemian Rhapsody: Haitink rocks 90 with the LSO

Bernard Haitink © Mark Allan | Barbican
A wonderful evening of unforced, smiling music-making from Bernard Haitink, Isabelle Faust and the London Symphony Orchestra. 
*****
Read more

“Unicorn” clarinet spreads Saariaho's enchantment in Dublin

Kari Kriikku © Marco Borggreve
In Kaija Saariaho's clarinet concerto D'om le vrai sens, with Kari Kriikku as soloist, and Mahler's Symphony no. 7, masterfully conducted by Ilan Volkov, the RTÉ NSO enchant the audience in Dublin.
****1
Read more
Biography

The most striking thing about Mahler’s music is its sheer scale and ambition - and “strike” is the right word: Mahler’s music seldom shrinks from doing whatever it takes to make maximum impact. It’s evident from every stage in his compositional career: from his first major composition, das Klagende Lied, a cantata for full choir and two orchestras written when he was just twenty years old, to the third symphony with its forty minute first movement, which aspires to be a musical description of the whole of creation, to the eighth symphony, dubbed “Symphony of a Thousand” (much to Mahler’s chagrin) after Leopold Stokovsky conducted 1,068 performers at its première. And who else would attempt to cover the entire earth in a symphonic cantata for soprano, baritone and a giant orchestra, entitling it Das Lied von der Erde (the Song of the Earth)?

Mahler’s music polarises. If it connects with you, it does so with enormous power and intensity. The third symphony can indeed make you feel like you just took in all life and creation at a hundred-minute sitting. The fifth symphony opens with a funeral fanfare that leaves you shaking after just the first few bars, while the second movement’s helter skelter theme leaves you breathless and reeling. Mahler fans are amongst the most devoted set in the whole of classical music, with active societies around the world and thousands of pages dissecting his works in the minutest detail.

Mahler could also write with intimacy and contemplation. That same fifth symphony which opens so clangorously contains the adagietto for harp and strings, made famous by Luchino Visconti’s film Death in Venice, whose achingly long suspended chords quietly lead the listener through tragedy and meditation. The same intimacy can be heard in Kindertotenlieder, a song cycle that is vivid and quiet in its portrayal of a parent’s grief at the loss of a child: an eerie foretelling of the composer’s own grief when his daughter died of scarlet fever four years later.

Not everyone feels this way. Many viewed Mahler as “an excellent conductor who wrote excessively long symphonies”, and the Sunday Times of 1960 described the first movement of the third symphony as “an artistic monstrosity”. Mahler is often mercurial, mixing high drama and seriousness with a fondness for Austrian folk song and even the klezmer music of his Jewish youth: some listeners simply can’t cope with this. Even for the committed, appreciating his music demands patience, concentration and, preferably, repeated listenings. This is perhaps why he achieved far greater recognition after the widespread adoption of the long-playing record in the 1950s.

Whatever the views of him as a composer, Mahler was more or less universally acknowledged as a great conductor. He had a glittering career including positions at Vienna, Prague, Leipzig, Hamburg and Budapest, culminating in ten years as director of the Vienna State Opera. In the last years of his life, he received equal acclaim in the United States, where he conducted both the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic, earning what was at the time the highest ever fee paid to a musician.

Perhaps for this reason, he has inspired many great conductors, starting with his contemporary and friend Bruno Walter and continuing through Jascha Horenstein and Herbert von Karajan to Claudio Abbado and Simon Rattle today.

Musically, Mahler forms a bridge from the romantic to the modern eras. He appeals to those who find the romantic form too rigid and stifling, but have difficulty in accepting the harsh atonality of much twentieth century music. His music liberally mixes orchestral and vocal forms and abandons much formal structure in its search for impact and expressivity, yet retains a base in conventional tonality that makes it easy on the ear for those raised in the romantic tradition. Love it or loathe it, a Mahler concert is a memorable experience.

David Karlin
21st December 2009

List of works
Adagio from Symphony no. 10 (arr. for piano by R. Stevenson)Blumine (flower piece)Das Knaben Wunderhorn: Trost im UnglückDas Knaben Wunderhorn: Verlor'ne MühDas Lied von der ErdeDas Lied von der Erde (Song of the Earth)Das himmlische Leben: Das himmlische LebenDas klagende Lied ''Song of Lamentation"Des Knaben WunderhornDes Knaben Wunderhorn: Ablösung im SommerDes Knaben Wunderhorn: Aus! Aus!Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Das irdische LebenDes Knaben Wunderhorn: Der Schildwache NachtliedDes Knaben Wunderhorn: Der Tamboursg'sellDes Knaben Wunderhorn: Des Antonius von Padua FischpredigtDes Knaben Wunderhorn: Ich ging mit Lust durch einen grünen WaldDes Knaben Wunderhorn: Lied des Verfolgten im TurmDes Knaben Wunderhorn: Lob des hohen VerstandesDes Knaben Wunderhorn: Nicht wiedersehen!Des Knaben Wunderhorn: RevelgeDes Knaben Wunderhorn: RheinlegendchenDes Knaben Wunderhorn: Scheiden und MeidenDes Knaben Wunderhorn: SelbstgefühlDes Knaben Wunderhorn: Starke Einbildungskraft (Strong Imagination)Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Um schlimme Kinder artig zu machen (How to make naughty children behave)Des Knaben Wunderhorn: UrlichtDes Knaben Wunderhorn: Wer hat dies Liedlein erdachtDes Knaben Wunderhorn: Wo die schönen Trompeten blasenDes Knaben Wunderhorn: Zu Straßburg auf der Schanz (On the ramparts at Strasbourg)Des Knaben Wunderhorn: excerptsEs sungen drei EngelFeierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen (Eerste symfonie in D, Titan)Frühlingsmorgen (Spring morning)Hans und GreteHumoresken (songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn)In gemächlicher Bewegung: Ohne Hast (Vierde symfonie in G)KindertotenliederLieder eines fahrenden GesellenLieder eines fahrenden Gesellen: Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem SchatzLieder eines fahrenden Gesellen: Ging heut Morgen übers FeldLieder und Gesänge: Erinnerung (Memory)Lieder: selectionNachtmusik: Allegro moderato (Zevende symfonie in B)Phantasie aus Don JuanPiano Quartet in A minorRückert-LiederRückert-Lieder: Blicke mir nicht in die LiederRückert-Lieder: Ich atmet' einen linden DuftRückert-Lieder: Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommenRückert-Lieder: Liebst du um SchönheitScherzo (Eerste symfonie in D, Titan)Serenade aus Don JuanSymphony no. 1 in D major "Titan"Symphony no. 10 in F sharp majorSymphony no. 10 in F sharp major: AdagioSymphony no. 2 in C minor 'Resurrection'Symphony no. 3 in D minorSymphony no. 4 in G majorSymphony no. 5 in C sharp minorSymphony no. 5 in C sharp minor: AdagiettoSymphony no. 6 in A minor "Tragic"Symphony no. 7Symphony no. 8 in E flat major "Symphony of a Thousand"Symphony no. 9 in D majorTotenfeierWhat the wild flowers tell me (Second movement from Symphony No.3, arr. Britten)