Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Happy Birthday Gustav Mahler

On July 7, 1860, the great Romantic conductor and composer, Gustav Mahler, was born in Bohemia [then part of the Austrian Empire] to Jewish parents.  Happy 160th Birthday, Gustav Mahler!
Gustav Mahler [July 7, 1860 - May 18, 1911]
From Mahler-fest Website: "Gustav Mahler was born on July 7, 1860 to a middle-class Jewish family in Kaliste, Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He received his principal musical training at the Vienna Conservatory, beginning in 1875. Mahler’s drive to compose began in his early years, but he found he could make a good living by conducting, which in turn allowed him time to compose."

"As a Jew, Mahler was exposed to anti-Semitism all his life, including an official “Anti-Semitic” press in Vienna. Some music commentators treated Mahler favorably, while others were vitriolically opposed.  To obtain the Vienna State Opera directorship, it was necessary to be a Catholic, so Mahler converted."

In his lifetime, Mahler was "Best known as a leading orchestral and operatic conductor."  He composed 9 large and substantive symphonies, many of which contained choruses [with vocal soloists]  and he also composed an "unfinished" 10th symphony.

Also, from Mahler-fest website: "Mahler also wrote some forty songs, including two song cycles, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (“Songs of a Wayfarer”), and Kindertotenlieder (“Songs on the Death of Children”)."

Mahler's first symphony was a strong and popular start.  Scored in D Major, it was named "The Titan".  From a previous Tales post: "As in all of Mahler's brilliant symphonies this is a large work of just under an hour with a big sound, as Mahler scores this for a huge symphony orchestra.  This epic work has also been described as a symphonic tone poem."  "It contains one of my favorite movements of any symphony as in his third movement Mahler brilliantly uses a variation of the children's song "Frere Jacques" in a slower tempo and D minor key to create a haunting funeral march.  Mahler also inserts a touch of a Jewish Klezmer sound that I love in this movement.  The dramatic "energetic" and long final movement, which brings back some of the earlier themes, begins in F minor before returning to the D Major key for an exhilarating climactic ending."

One of the great Mahler symphonies to view at the concert hall is his epic, Symphony #8 in E Flat Major, known as the "Symphony of a Thousand".  
This from a previous Tales post: "The Symphony No. 8 in E-flat major by Gustav Mahler is one of the largest-scale choral works in the classical concert repertoire.  Because it requires huge instrumental and vocal forces it is frequently called the "Symphony of a Thousand", although the work is often performed with fewer than a thousand, and Mahler himself did not sanction the name."

One of Mahler's most popular, if not the most popular of his symphonies is his Symphony #5.  From a previous Tales post when the fetching Mrs Sheralyn and I were going to Jones Hall for a Houston Symphony Concert performance of the Mahler's 5th Symphony:  "The Houston Symphony website says that those in attendance at Jones Hall will "embark on an epic spiritual journey as AndrĂ©s conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.  From the opening trumpet solo to the tender Adagietto inspired by Mahler’s wife, Alma, this symphony contains some of the most emotionally powerful music ever written.  As legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan once said, “A great performance of the Fifth is a transforming experience.  The fantastic finale almost forces you to hold your breath.”

To celebrate Gustav Mahler's Birthday let us hear a portion of his huge epic symphonies #1, #5, and #8.  Please turn up the volume, play in full screen and enjoy the music of the great Gustav Mahler.

Note: I am proud to say that the first video of Mahler's complete Titan Symphony features our [Houston] very own Houston Symphony Orchestra's young dynamic director, Maestro Andres Orozco-Estrada leading the Frankfurt Radio Symphony.  My favorite movement #3, Funeral March, begins around the 25:23 mark.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony #1 in D Major, The Titan:

Gustav Mahler: Symphony #5 in C# minor: Movement 4, Adagietto:

Gustav Mahler: Symphony #8 in E Flat Major, "Symphony of a Thousand", Finale:


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