Gustav Mahler

Biography

Born: July 7, 1860; Czech Republic   Died: May 18, 1911; Austria   Period: Romantic
"Imagine the universe beginning to sing and resound," Mahler wrote of his Symphony No. 8, the "Symphony of a Thousand." "It is no longer human voices; it is planets and suns revolving." Mahler was late Romantic music's ultimate big thinker. In his own lifetime he was generally regarded as a conductor who composed on the side, producing huge, bizarre symphonies accepted only by a cult following.
Born in 1860, in Kalischt, Bohemia, he came
Read more from a middle-class family. He entered the Vienna Conservatory in 1875, studying piano, harmony, and composition in a musically conservative atmosphere. Nevertheless, he became a supporter of Wagner and Bruckner, both of whose works he would later conduct frequently, and became part of a social circle interested in socialism, Nietzschean philosophy, and pan-Germanism. Around 1880, he began conducting and wrote his first mature work, Das klagende Lied. Mahler's conducting career advanced rapidly, moving him from Kassel to Prague to Leipzig to Budapest; he was usually either greatly respected or thoroughly despised by the performers for his exacting rehearsals and perfectionism. In 1897 he became music director of the Vienna Court Opera and then, a year later, of the Vienna Philharmonic. Mahler's conducting career permitted composition only during the summers, in a series of "composing huts" he had built in picturesque rural locations. He completed his first symphony in 1888, but it met with utter audience incomprehension. He reserved this time for symphonies, all of them large-scale works, and song cycles. In Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth), he merged the two forms into an immense song-symphony. The Viennese public largely failed to understand his music, but Mahler took their reactions calmly, accurately predicting that "My time will yet come." Meanwhile, his autocratic ways as a conductor alienated musicians. In 1901, the press and the musicians essentially forced his resignation from the Philharmonic. He married a young composition student, Alma Schindler in 1902, and they soon had two daughters. By 1907 Mahler was increasingly away from Vienna, conducting his own works, and thus he resigned from the opera as well. Just after accepting the position of principal conductor of New York's Metropolitan Opera, but before leaving Vienna, Mahler's older daughter, age 4, died from scarlet fever and diphtheria, and he learned he himself had a defective heart valve. In New York, he was impressed by the caliber of talent and quickly gained audience approval. In 1909 he became conductor of the New York Philharmonic, which he found much more agreeable than the opera work by this time. The following year, he had a triumphant premiere of his massive Symphony No. 8 in Munich. Despite the professional successes, his personal life suffered another blow when his and Alma's marriage began having problems. They stayed together, and after he became ill in February 1911, she saw to it that he made it back to Vienna, where he died on May 18.
The conductors Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, Willem Mengelberg, and Maurice Abravanel kept Mahler's legacy alive, and Mahler's are now among the most recorded of any symphonies. His frequent incorporation of vocal elements into symphonic writing brought to full fruition a process that had begun with Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, demonstrating his music's firm roots in the Germanic classical tradition. However, it was his huge tapestries of shifting moods and tones, ranging from tragedy to bitter irony (often explicitly indicated in performance directions), from café music to evocations of the sublime, that portended a century in which multiplicity ruled. Read less
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde / Davis, Bavarian Radio
Release Date: 08/28/2015   Label: Arthaus Musik  
Catalog: 109113   Number of Discs: 1
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Mahler: Das Lied Von Der Erde / Lan Shui, Ning Liang, Et Al
Release Date: 11/27/2007   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 1547   Number of Discs: 1
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Mahler: Symphony No 9 / Gilbert, Royal Stockholm Po
Release Date: 09/29/2009   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 1710   Number of Discs: 1
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Mahler: Symphony No 5 / Barshai, Junge Deutsche Philharmonie
Release Date: 02/09/2010   Label: Brilliant Classics  
Catalog: 93719   Number of Discs: 1
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Mahler: Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen (Arr. Schoenberg)… / Pinnock
Release Date: 05/12/2015   Label: Linn Records  
Catalog: 481   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Symphony no 1 in D major "Titan"

 

1. Langsam. Schleppend
2. Kräftig bewegt
3. Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen
4. Stürmisch bewegt
About This Work
Mahler's First Symphony was originally conceived as a tone poem in two parts. Loosely based on Jean Paul's novel Titan, the structure was this: Part I: "From the Days of Youth," Music of Flowers, Fruit and Thorn -- 1. Spring and No End; 2. Read more Flowers; 3. In Full Sail; Part II: "The Human Comedy" -- 4. "Stranded!" Funeral March in the Style of Callot; 5. D'all Inferno al'Paradiso (From Hell to Heaven). These titles were accompanied by more extensive programs describing the metaphorical content of each movement. In Jean Paul's Titan we have a youth gifted with a burning artistic desire that the world has no use for, and who, finding no outlet or ability to adapt, gives way to despair and suicide. Mahler apparently saw himself in this figure, as he described this work as autobiographical in a very loose sense. On the other hand the music, some of which Mahler actually accumulated from various earlier works, contradicts this program in so many ways, especially in the triumphant conclusion, that Mahler later withdrew it. He eventually came to scorn the application of specific programs to his symphonies in general.

Beyond Mahler's suppression of the program, there were other changes made before the symphony achieved its final form: the orchestra was expanded and the original second movement, entitled "Blumine" (Flowers) was dropped. This movement, the only surviving piece from Mahler's incidental music to Scheffel's Der Trompeter von Säkkingen, although having thematic ties to the rest of the symphony, is stylistically different, being scored for a much smaller orchestra.

The primary source material for the remaining movements of the First Symphony is Mahler's Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer). The material of these songs, specifically the first and second, is not only quoted but also used as thematic material in the symphony, creating additional programmatic implications. Mahler's First Symphony is a stunning achievement for so young a composer, and despite its convoluted genesis is a fully mature, integrated and highly effective work.

The first movement, Langsam Schleppend (Slow and Dragging), opens with an introduction invoking nature, eventually with cuckoo calls and distant fanfares. The principal theme is from the song "Ging heut' morgens übers Feld" (I Went Out This Morning Through the Fields) and is developed in a standard sonata form. The second movement, Kräftig bewegt (Strongly moving), is a lusty and hearty Austrian Ländler replete with yodels and foot stomping. The slower and wistful Trio conjures feelings of nostalgia and longing. Based on a woodcut depicting animals carrying a hunter to his grave, the third-movement funeral march, Feierlich und gemessen (Solemnly and measured), is deeply ironic. Mahler uses the folk song "Frère Jacques" in a lugubrious minor, played by a muted double bass solo. The central Trio is an evocation of tawdry Viennese cabaret music.

Mahler's original program for the Stürmisch bewegt (Stormy) finale called the movement's dramatic opening "the sudden outburst of a wounded heart." After a long and violent beginning invoking the torments of hell, including a vehement march derived from the first movement, the music subsides into a yearning theme. After a return to the march, Mahler interrupts the mood with a transformative fanfare that eventually leads to a triumphant conclusion.

-- Steven Coburn
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Conductors

Ensembles

Gustav Mahler


WORKS
1. Langsam. Schleppend
2. Kräftig bewegt
3. Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen
4. Stürmisch bewegt
1. Trauermarsch (In gemessenem Schritt. Streng. Wie ein Kondukt - Plötzlich schneller. Leidenschaftlich. Wild - Tempo I)
2. Stürmisch bewegt. Mit größter Vehemenz - Bedeutend langsamer - Tempo I subito
3. Scherzo (Kräftig, nicht zu schnell)
4. Adagietto (Sehr langsam)
5. Rondo-Finale (Allegro)
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde - Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde - Der Einsame im Herbst
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde - Von der Jugend
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde - Von der Schönheit
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde - Der Trunkene im Frühling
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde - Der Abschied
Nun will die Sonn' so hell aufgeh'n
Nun seh' ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen
Wenn dein Mütterlein
Oft denk' ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen
In diesem Wetter
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (1999 Digital Remaster): I: Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (1999 Digital Remaster): II: Ging heut' Morgen übers Feld
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (1999 Digital Remaster): III: Ich hab' ein glühend Messer
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (1999 Digital Remaster): IV: Die zwei blauen Augen
Symphony No.2 in C minor ("Resurrection") (2000 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro Maestoso
Symphony No.2 in C minor ("Resurrection") (2000 Digital Remaster): II. Andante moderato
Symphony No.2 in C minor ("Resurrection") (2000 Digital Remaster): III. In ruhig fliessender Bewegung
Symphony No.2 in C minor ("Resurrection") (2000 Digital Remaster): IV. Urlicht. Sehr feierlich, aber schlicht
Symphony No.2 in C minor ("Resurrection") (2000 Digital Remaster): V. Im Tempo des Scherzos. Wild herausfahrend
Symphony No.2 in C minor ("Resurrection") (2000 Digital Remaster): Wieder sehr breit
Symphony No.2 in C minor ("Resurrection") (2000 Digital Remaster): Ritardando...Maestoso
Symphony No.2 in C minor ("Resurrection") (2000 Digital Remaster): Wieder zurückaltend
Symphony No.2 in C minor ("Resurrection") (2000 Digital Remaster): Langsam. Misterioso
Symphony No.2 in C minor ("Resurrection") (2000 Digital Remaster): Etwas bewegter
Symphony No.2 in C minor ("Resurrection") (2000 Digital Remaster): Mit Aufschwung aber nicht eilen
1. Bedächtig. Nicht eilen - Recht gemächlich
2. In gemächlicher Bewegung. Ohne Hast
3. Ruhevoll (Poco adagio)
4. Sehr behaglich: "Wir genießen die himmlischen Freuden"
Andante comodo
Etwas frischer
(Horns)
Mit Wut. Allegro risoluto
(Brass)
Bewegter
Wie von Anfang
Ploetzlich bedeutend langsamer (Lento) und leise
Im Tempo eines gemaechlichen Laendlers. Etwas taeppisch und sehr derb
Poco più mosso subito (Tempo II)
Tempo III
A tempo II
Tempo I
Tempo II
Tempo I. subito
Rondo-Burleske. Allegro assai. Sehr trotzig.
L'istesso tempo
Sempre l'istesso tempo
L'istesso tempo
(Clarinets)
Tempo I subito
Più stretto
Adagio. Sehr langsam und noch zurueckhaltend
Ploetzlich wieder sehr langsam (wie zu Anfang) und etwas zoegernd
Molto adagio subito
A tempo (Molto adagio)
Stets sehr gehalten
Fliessender, doch durchaus nicht eilend
Tempo I. Molto adagio
Adagissimo
1. Kräftig. Entschieden
1. - Langsam. Schwer
1. - Tempo I
1. - a tempo
1. - Immer dasselbe Tempo. (Marsch.) Nicht eilen
1. - Im alten Marschtempo (Allegro Moderato)
1. - Tempo I
2. Tempo di minuetto. Sehr mäßig
2. - A tempo. (Wie im Anfang)
2. - Ganz ploetzlich gemaechlich. Tempo di Menuetto
3. Comodo. Scherzando. Ohne Hast
3.- Wieder sehr gemaechlich, wie zu Anfang
3.- Sehr gemächlich (Posthorn)
3.- Tempo I
3.- Wieder sehr gemaechlich, beinahe langsam
4. Sehr langsam. Misterioso: "O Mensch! Gib acht!" 'O Mensch! Gib acht'
4.- Più mosso subito
5. Lustig im Tempo und keck im Ausdruck: "Bimm Bamm. Es sungen drei Engel"
6. Langsam. Ruhevoll. Empfunden
6.- Nicht mehr so breit
6.- Tempo I. Ruhevoll
6.- a tempo (Etwas bewegter)
6.- Tempo I
6.- Langsam. Tempo I


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