February 01, 2011

Mahler Love + Music Project

Gustav Mahler in 1906
RCA and her husband Bark Savage had the best idea for New Years resolutions: rather than pick one thing to try to do (and fail) all year long, they decided to do 12 different things together--one for every month--and blog about it.  They're also inviting guests in on the project, and I'm their guest for February.

This month our theme is LISTEN: Research (history, composer, etc.) and listen to a piece of classical music each week, and comment on it.  We're still working out some of the selections--but one person we're definitely going to highlight is Gustav Mahler, who has been a favorite of ourss for a long time!  I am super excited because I actually don't know much about Mahler; I only know that I've loved everything of his that I have ever heard.

2010 and 2011 are good years for those who love Gustav Mahler.  2010 was the 150th anniversary of his birth, and 2011 the 100th anniversary of his death.  Needless to say: he's on just about every civic orchestra's concert list this season. And I've been collecting links about Mahler for ages now, so here's a nice start to my research:

+ Mahler's last concert was at Carnegie Hall:
A short, intense man, bundled in woolens, burst through the Carnegie Hall stage door 100 years ago for the last concert of his life. Gustav Mahler should not, by rights, have been there. The doctor had ordered him to bed with a head cold, and his relations with the New York Philharmonic had broken down at a hostile board meeting where, as tempers rose, a lawyer was whisked out from behind a curtain wielding a menacing contract. Any maestro today would have canceled the next concert, leaving the orchestra and his agent to concoct a face-saving statement. Mahler, though, was not a quitter.
(WSJ)  John Susanka responds.

+ I've never heard his poetic songs performed, but they brought my sister to tears once. Singer Thomas Hampson recently released an album of the lieder based on German folk poetry called Des Knaben Wunderhorn (CD, MP3).  The WSJ sat down to discuss Mahler's influence on Hampson's career.

+ Is there too much Mahler (WSJ...ironically, since they've written more about him this past year than about any other composer as far as I have read.)

+ Last fall Norman Liebrecht released  book Why Mahler: How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed Our World. Here are reviews: WSJThe Economist; New Republic.  While the reviews make me hesitate, if I had time for more reading, I'd pick up Liebrecht's other Mahler book Mahler Remembered which was recommended by Terry Teachout and is a compilation of personal papers, letters, etc of Mahler.

+ Alex Ross (the New Yorker music critic and my go to source for classical music criticism) published a review in the London Review of Books in 2000 of several books about Mahler.  Fascinating reading.

+ Also from Alex Ross: this is a great (little) story about Mahler.
I love this photo of Mahler with his wife Anna Alma.

(P.S. When a plaque is made to mark the house I lived in...I sure hope it has this awesome of a font.)


  1. Oh fun!! I've been thinking a next May of Teck project should be music.

  2. Mahler's wife was Alma, not Anna. Perhaps you remember it from the great Tom Lehrer song about her.

    The refrain goes "Alma tells us, all modern women are jealous, which of your magical charms got you Gustav, and Walter, and Franz."
    She married, Mahler, Walter Gropius (architect of the Bauhaus School), and Franz Werfel, who wrote The Song of Bernadette.

    We've got it on a record someplace.