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General Category => Gustav Mahler and Related Discussions => Topic started by: john haueisen on July 12, 2008, 08:40:17 AM

Title: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: john haueisen on July 12, 2008, 08:40:17 AM
Yes, I realize this is not an easy, or even possible question.  Yet it's fairly easy to choose our favorites.  I wouldn't suggest that Mahler had any "duds," but it might be interesting to see which symphony is least popular at the GustavMahlerBoard.
John H
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Leo K on July 12, 2008, 08:49:34 AM
Hi John H,

Well, this was very hard!  I had to choose the M1, because it's the Mahler symphony I play the least...it's only when I hear a great performance, such as the Bertini/EMI recording, that I realize how much I have underated this work  :'(

The M8 is the other most unplayed Mahler work in my collection...only because I need to be in a "special place" or "in the mood" to hear this work, which for some reason feels super epic in scope (well, I guess it is) even though it is not Mahler's longest work.

--Todd
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: techniquest on July 12, 2008, 09:08:08 AM
I'm not that keen on the 5th except for the first movement and the adagietto. I'm also ashamed to say that apart from the first movement, I've never been able to get into the 9th.
I suspect that if this thread draws a crowd, no.7 will prove to be the least popular overall. We shall see....
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: alpsman on July 12, 2008, 09:15:54 AM
JH

For me the answer is very easy. It is M8. NOT in anyway that it is bad or somehow wrong for me. It has some fantastic points, but overall it doesn't won me over. I know from other forums and conversations with Mahlerites, that this will be the verdict. Maybe M7 is destined for this "award". But not for me. The last years I am espesially fond for M7(first mov. particularly).

IF thus will be the verdict, it will be interesting to note that exactly this symphony M8 was the only and true success in Mahler's lifetime.
Different times, different attitudes and fashions.
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: John Kim on July 12, 2008, 09:16:58 AM
I don't have a least favorite Mahler symphony. Come on folks, Mahler was a genius and all of his works are masterpieces  >:(

The question should have been, "What is your least played Mahler symphony?"

To give my answer to this question, it would be M8th and M1st  ;D

John,
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: alpsman on July 12, 2008, 09:29:00 AM
Yes John, every bar of Mahler's music is a masterpiece.But we all have some preferences and some black ships.And the interesting thing is that, by and large, we all agreed each other.
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Jot N. Tittle on July 12, 2008, 09:42:41 AM
It has to be the Eighth, but only because I don't know it well.

Until I have learned the text, the singing is merely sound. Not that that is a bad thing, but it is a considerable limiting factor in the appreciation of the work. I have not yet taken the time to study the Eighth and learn the text. Some day. . . .

As usual, it's all my fault.

     . & '
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: John Kim on July 12, 2008, 09:44:46 AM
alpsman,

Perhaps I should make my point more clear.

The least favorite piece is NOT necessarily the least played piece.

What I said is, I don't have a least favorite Mahler symphony meaning I love them all. It's just that currently M8th and M1st happen to be the least played ones. But believe me, at one point in my life when I was younger M8th was the most played Mahler symphony  :D

John,
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Amphissa on July 12, 2008, 10:14:27 AM
Why are only a small number of the symphonies listed? My least favorite is not an option to vote for. List them all.
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: alpsman on July 12, 2008, 10:38:00 AM
Even great maestros and friends of Mahler had favorite symphonies.

Klemperer didn't conduct 1st,3nd, 5th, 8th, 10th(adagio) and I think had conducted M6 only once and decleared the work  completelly failure.( More exactly I think he refes to the finale )
Walter didn't make M3,,M6,M7,M8,M10.
We all know that Karajan and Giulini conducted only a handfull.
I consider this fact a very healthy sign. Althought it's the same language, the same world, there are diffrerent neccesities for each work.I beleive to  a trully artisic instict of each performer and not to a fashion which wants complete cycles.That said, there are a lot of complete cycles by trully dedicated Mahlerians which are excellent.
Everyone to his likes and dislikes, both artists and musiclovers.
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: barry guerrero on July 13, 2008, 01:31:53 AM
My least favorite are those that are probably most popular: M2, M5, and M9. However, I'd rather listen to any of those three, than pretty much most everything else composed by other people. It's a matter of perspective.

Barry
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Seán on July 13, 2008, 03:03:42 AM
My least favourite is M8, however, as I only started listening to Mahler's music none months ago, with time that might change.
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Amphissa on July 13, 2008, 08:33:50 AM

My least favorite is everyone else's favorite. M6. I'm not crazy about M8, but M6 is definitely at the bottom of my Mahler listening list.
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: sbugala on July 13, 2008, 10:12:21 AM
For me, it's M10. The performing editions just don't do it for me, although it IS fascinating in parts.
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Don on July 13, 2008, 11:35:22 AM
My least played is the 4th, although it is not by any means a failure as a work.  I just never got into the piece as much as the 5th, 6th and the 10th for example.
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Polarius T on July 13, 2008, 02:10:20 PM
I'll join the fray:

Least favorite on philosophical and moral grounds (leave it alone!): 10th

Least favorite on aesthetic grounds (least to my "liking" as rather oppressive): 6th

Least favorite on practical grounds (can seldom muster or afford the spiritual energy and physical powers required for listening it through): 8th

PT
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: sbugala on July 13, 2008, 05:36:28 PM
Even great maestros and friends of Mahler had favorite symphonies.

Klemperer didn't conduct 1st,3nd, 5th, 8th, 10th(adagio) and I think had conducted M6 only once and decleared the work  completelly failure.( More exactly I think he refes to the finale )
Walter didn't make M3,,M6,M7,M8,M10.
We all know that Karajan and Giulini conducted only a handfull.
I consider this fact a very healthy sign. Althought it's the same language, the same world, there are diffrerent neccesities for each work.I beleive to  a trully artisic instict of each performer and not to a fashion which wants complete cycles.That said, there are a lot of complete cycles by trully dedicated Mahlerians which are excellent.
Everyone to his likes and dislikes, both artists and musiclovers.

According to the Robin Gollding's program notes to the GROC version of Klemperer's classic Philharmonia account of the Resurrection Symphony, he performed the 1st Symphony once and "never got around to doing No. 6." This stirred a memory of reading a passage about Klemperer in a book on conductors where he seemed to be enthusiastic about the Sixth, but acknowledged he probably couldn't undertake it at this time.  Using Google Book Search, I found a bio about Klemperer called Otto Klemperer: His Life and Times where despite his ambivalence about the Sixth, he still considered programming it in 1969 before abandoning the idea.  Weird, wild stuff. Check it out: http://books.google.com/books?id=WVTSGoGfmuMC&pg=PA144&lpg=PA144&dq=klemperer+cosmos+mahler&source=web&ots=qjX22Is1Ek&sig=va8UtK5oqsj2KvktH3fyIaUmx0s&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=7&ct=result


Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: john haueisen on July 13, 2008, 06:14:42 PM
I think Polarius has nailed the problem that many of us have with M8:
 that we
"can seldom muster or afford the spiritual energy and physical powers required for listening it through."

It's one of those pieces that I hope that I can better understand and appreciate after continued growth and experience.  So far, it has required more of me than I've been able to give it.
JH
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: sbugala on July 13, 2008, 07:13:44 PM
The M8 is a weird bird, that's for sure.  I love the closing minutes of the first movement, but I'm not as thrilled with the rest of the movement.  However, sometimes, I wonder if the M8 second movement is the greatest he ever wrote. I especially find the first ten minutes or so to be incredible.  And Mahler, who gets dismissed for being so over the top, is very much in a "less is more" mode here. 

Regards,
Steven
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Polarius T on July 14, 2008, 05:36:35 AM
...a bio about Klemperer called Otto Klemperer: His Life and Times...

That, by the way, is a very good Klemperer biography (by Peter Heyworth), although rather difficult to find these days, especially the volume 2 (post-1933).

For the percussionists in our midst: even if he never conducted it himself, Klemperer did get to play a part in a performance of M3 under the Mahler's own wand (the offstage side-drum: see Martin Anderson, ed., Klemperer on Music: Shavings from a Musician's Workbench, with preface by Pierre Boulez; Toccata Press 1988, p. 135).

(That's another book of interest for Mahlerians.)

(In which Klemperer also declares that the work that converted him into a true Mahlerite was actually M8: "To be frank, it was not until [hearing Mahler rehearse it in Munich in 1910] that I understood Mahler's music well enough to realise what a great composer he was" (op. cit., p. 139).

PT
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Leo K on July 14, 2008, 09:20:06 AM
Polarius T, thanks for you references to Klemp and the M3...fascinating.


By the way, I'm slowly appreciating the M8 much more than I used to...it took Inbal, Rattle, and Boulez to really show me the light, so to speak. 

I think Solti's classic recording turned me off from the work for years...it ruined the M8 for me!

--Todd
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Amphissa on July 14, 2008, 03:21:24 PM

I found that I can like M8 if I skip the entire Part I.  :-X
 
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: john haueisen on July 14, 2008, 03:41:24 PM
Hey, look everyone--Amphissa has just joined the ranks as a Full Member!
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Amphissa on July 14, 2008, 07:23:11 PM


I've been hanging around the Mahler discussion board since the "old days" on the previous site. By now, I should have received the Old Timer Medal.   8)


 
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Polarius T on July 15, 2008, 04:47:07 AM
Sbugala, Todd, Amphissa & John: I've started to feel a little like you guys: the 8th is a tough nut to crack and a particular performance of it (like Solti's, my gawd!*) can totally spoil it for you almost for good. I still feel like the 1st movement may be something like a magnificent failure, and I find the 2nd part much, much more interesting. Perhaps it's this type of efforts to resuscitate what is basically an already dead form (from Catholicism in this case; though of course this is not so much about the musical form per se but about a score that tries to accommodate a dead text belonging to a world the music has already left behind) that proves so precarious.

John: Amphissa's also got street cred from other music fora where I've enjoyed his input for long, so show da man some respect!  8)

PT

*I always feel like, if in his performances Bernstein always tried to sensationalize what he was working on, Solti was into making a scandal out of it. What actually made me first tune in to this music was Kubelik (on Audite), but that may have been because of the singers he used who really can characterize any work (Fischer-Dieskau, Edith Mathis, Julia Hamari, Franz Crass...). Moreover all the sound elements are nicely integrated and the recording has spaciousness to it at a scale it really needs to breathe. In fact, this achievement was rather surprising to me given that I've never particularly cared for anythying Kubelik has done; his conducting can be very competent yet kind of pedestrian in overall conception, leaving you feeling almost fully nonchalant about the results. Currently I'm working my way through this work under Boulez' guidance like you, Todd.
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: john haueisen on July 15, 2008, 11:16:58 AM
Amphissa's street cred from other music fora respectfully acknowledged and appreciated!
JH
Title: 6th far and away
Post by: Toblacher on July 15, 2008, 11:55:07 AM
Some great parts, but for the life of me I can't understand how this can be some high on anyone's list.  The ending is disappointing, neither bombastic (like the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 8th), nor a beautiful fade-out (like the 4th and 9th).  That said, Mahler is like sex, even when it's bad, it's good.
Title: Re: 6th far and away
Post by: Amphissa on July 15, 2008, 04:04:07 PM


That said, Mahler is like sex, even when it's bad, it's good.

HAHAHA!!!  Wear those rose-tinted glasses as long as you can, my friend.

"There's nothing better than good sex. But bad sex? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is better than bad sex." - Billy Joel

"Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand." - Woody Allen

"Stick with the prime cuts. You may go hungry once in awhile, but you never confuse bull testicles for tenderloin." - Amphissa

In other words, every composer has a Cinderella or two in his family. Life is too short to waste time on the ugly stepsisters. Date the Cinderellas of a lot of different composers instead. Because, as Somerset Maugham so wisely counseled,

"You know, of course, that the Tasmanians, who never committed adultery, are now extinct."

 8)
 
 
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: john haueisen on July 15, 2008, 06:14:43 PM
Purely my personal opinion today, but M6 is one of my absolute favorites.
Why?

Again, you'll see how subjective this is, and how much many will think I am reading into it, but to me, M6 contains some of Mahler's most poignant struggles:  clinging to his love of life (Alma theme) struggling against mortality, soaring to the heavens, clinging again to pastoral scenes and love and life, finally all of this crushed and annihilated by the inexorable blows of mortality.

OK.  Jump on me with ridicule.  I warned you it was just my own subjective impression of M6.
  I know--it's just musical notes, vibrations on the eardrums.  But to me at least, it's so much more.
John H
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Amphissa on July 15, 2008, 06:39:58 PM

You will not find many to disagree with you here. Most of our brethren on the board love the 6th. I'm the aberration, not you.
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: john haueisen on July 16, 2008, 05:05:02 AM
Thanks Amphissa.
But I don't mind aberrations either.
After all, wouldn't all the "classical" composers have considered Mahler an aberration?
JH
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: david johnson on July 16, 2008, 03:16:21 PM
8

dj
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Damfino on July 17, 2008, 08:56:09 AM
I voted for (or is it against?) the 8th. I rather like the first part, which ends with such a bang, I find myself too restless after that point to hear an even longer concluding part. I guess it seems sort of like listening to Beethoven's 9th in reverse order. I have a few recordings of it, but I always lose interest on the second part. Maybe one day, something will click between me and the music, but so far this has not happened. At one time, I did not care at all for 7 and 6. I quite like both now (prefer 7 to 6) and I expect this will happen with the 8th if I give it time. However, I guess I tend to do as Amphissa says, and "stick with the prime cuts". So, I never seem to give the 8th enough time because I am too busy playing the ones I really, really like.

Likewise, I have never given the 10th much time either, aside from the adagio, which I really like.

Quote
Again, you'll see how subjective this is, and how much many will think I am reading into it, but to me, M6 contains some of Mahler's most poignant struggles:  clinging to his love of life (Alma theme) struggling against mortality, soaring to the heavens, clinging again to pastoral scenes and love and life, finally all of this crushed and annihilated by the inexorable blows of mortality.

Although I have become quite a fan of the 6th, the weakest part to me is the so-called "Alma" theme, which always struck me as a fairly trite melody. Maybe it is a an accurate portrait of Alma?
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Jot N. Tittle on July 17, 2008, 09:39:13 AM
Back to the Eighth: It is the text that gets in the way.

If you can follow the singers with the text in hand, you must have a pretty good command of it. I tried last night and have some learning to do! My theory is that once the listener can "sing along" the music really opens up.

Maybe that's what is needed: join a chorus that is practicing the Eighth. 8)

     . & '
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Jot N. Tittle on July 17, 2008, 10:42:21 AM
Although I have become quite a fan of the 6th, the weakest part to me is the so-called "Alma" theme, which always struck me as a fairly trite melody. Maybe it is a an accurate portrait of Alma?

You may be right, Damfino, on both counts.

But who first said that passage was a portrait of Alma? Correct me if I am wrong, but I think it was--who else?--Alma.

A later passage in the Sixth--I'd have to hear it to identify it--seems more suitable for personification. Maybe someone else has a suggestion.

     . & '
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: barry guerrero on July 17, 2008, 11:14:15 AM
Trite or not, the "Alma" theme serves an important function: it is the contrasting second theme to the first movement - the theme that wins out in the end. While the opening of the symphony is a staid march in A minor, the Alma theme is a sweeping, lyrical theme in Major.

Similar to how the the first movement to the 3rd symphony is essentially a struggle between two opposing march forces - one in minor and the other in major - the first movement to M6 is a struggle between opposing Major and minor themes; only this time, the theme in Major is also a stark contrast in terms of phrasing as well (long legato lines, as opposed to a clipped, militaristic march).

My problem with the "Alma theme" is that it's often times just played too slow. Because it's associated with feminine characteristics, everyone assumes that slower is better. I feel just the opposite: that the Alma theme should come bursting right out of the box; thus, making an even stronger contrast to the march. Sometime check out how the second subject gets treated on the Ivan Fischer M6 (which also has a great finale, by the way). It truly makes a strong contrast.

Barry
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: stillivor on July 26, 2008, 01:55:37 AM
 I agree that Mahler didn't write a dud.

 The 8th is the one I, too, struggle with. Tho i must say, since I got into playing thru his output chronolically and in cycles, and therefore hear the 8th more often, I'm getting to it more.

 It is in the second part that i struggle more, tho i'm coming along. And the start and finish of each half are wonderful. There are tremendous passages throughout,imo.

 No.6 is my favourite; i think the 'Alma' theme gorgeous (but then I don't have much taste); I have a special place for 7 as the first Mahler I ever heard; and have to gird myself for 10 (next in cycle no.5) because it is so powerful. i think the man got enough down on paper for 10 to hit the target.

Ivor
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: klingsor on January 01, 2009, 09:22:26 AM
Sorry, I know this thread is "dead" since July... ;)

I have to go with M8 as well.

To me the problem is that the symphony sounds less personal, as in Mahler-personal, to me. Only the non-vocal start of Mvt II sounds like Mahler being Mahler to me (and even then, not at his best). I don't love Mvt I, although it's mighty impressive on a contrapuntal level. Mvt II has many moments of beauty, but I don't really get hooked until the last 10 minutes or so ("Blicket auf!"), from there on it's irresistable.
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Damfino on January 01, 2009, 02:19:41 PM
Klingsor, feel free to resurrect any old thread you like. I forgot I had even posted in this one. Funny how we all prefer things differently. I mentioned feeling that the "Alma theme" seems trite to me, yet many love it (I'm not saying I'd change anything, though in the 6th). And, I quite love the 4th, yet some do not.
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: john haueisen on January 02, 2009, 07:29:42 AM
I'll second Damfino's suggestion that it's fine to see old threads resurrected.  Time often gives us a new perspective.
It's interesting that so many of us have a bit of a problem warming up to M8.
Perhaps as Jot N. Tittle said, it requires familiarization to the extent that we can sing along with it.
Amphissa once chose M6 as a "least favorite," I believe because it had too many marches, or perhaps seemed to Amphissa like one long forced march.  I hope Amphissa will someday enjoy M6.  Perhaps a New Year's resolution for more exercise (lots of marching around) would be a good impetus for an appreciation of M6. 
I don't enjoy my own singing voice, so as to M8, singing along is not a probability.
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: klingsor on January 02, 2009, 08:59:07 AM
As far as singing along goes, I think all of Mahler is very singable, that's one key to his popularity: the man wrote great tunes. It's also a source of some criticism, that his themes are not 'symphonic' and don't lend themselves to development. I remember reading that several times in the past. I think now most will agree that Mahler develops his themes brilliantly.

In terms of preferences, some say M6 has too many marches. For me, Mahler's marches are among his most appealing creations.
Here's a question: which Mahler symphonies have no marches? I say only M4 and M8. M9 has a march episode in I (a lyrical funeral march about midway in the movement). I suppose DL has no march, apart from moments in IV and possibly during the interlude in VI
 
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: john haueisen on January 02, 2009, 09:27:38 AM
Klingsor said: 
Here's a question: which Mahler symphonies have no marches? I say only M4 and M8. M9 has a march episode in I (a lyrical funeral march about midway in the movement). I suppose DL has no march, apart from moments in IV and possibly during the interlude in VI

You're right about DL.  The marches are in movements 4 and 6.
M4 has a march in the first movement.
M8 the same.
M9 has (as you said), a march in the first movement, but also another in the third movement.
The only one lacking a march is M10.
--John H
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Amphissa on January 02, 2009, 10:53:16 AM
The only one lacking a march is M10.
--John H

That's only because he had not gotten around to it yet. He would have put a march in it. He was obsessed with marching. That's my problem with the 6th. I'm not fond of marches. I tolerate the marching in most of his symphonies because the rest of the music is so good. But there is just too much marching in the 6th for me.

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Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: barry guerrero on January 02, 2009, 11:27:31 AM
I'm convinced that the 6th is Mahler's most German and, simultaneously, most anti-German symphony. Hence, the need for bringing the march to the symphonic forefront. I think it's a mistake to view the 6th as a work that's primarily about Mahler's own personal problems. It's always said that Mahler wasn't interested in politics. I make the opposite argument: there were truly few composers who were more political than Mahler. It's just that Mahler was very guarded and cryptic when it came to discussing his own works, regardless of the fact that he was anxious to get them performed. But Mahler made perhaps THE most political statement of any composer ever: "I am thrice homeless; a Czech among Austrians; an Austrian amongst Germans, and a Jew amongst all peoples of the world; Never wanted, never welcomed". Of course, that's a typical Mahlerian exaggeration. But everything WAS an uphill struggle for Mahler. Nothing was handed to him, for the most part. If you use that statement as a launching platform, it's clear that the sixth symphony was very much a prophetic work, and thus, a warning. As I have pointed out many times, there was nothing unusual or rare about artistic warnings at that particular time in history, as many people viewed the first world war coming from a mile away (I mean that in the figurative sense). Barbara Tuchman discusses this to some length in "The Proud Tower".

If you accept my basic premise about the 6th symphony, then the true purpose of the 8th symphony becomes clear. The sixth pointed a finger at the basic problem of the German speaking world at that time. The 8th then points the way out of the tunnel of darkness. Just as Mahler's personal problems are a parable or allegory for the bigger issues that the sixth symphony is dealing with, so is Goethe's text only a parable or allegory for what Mahler is trying to say to his public with the 8th. Mahler himself left the biggest clue when he called his 8th his "hymn" or gift to the nation (I've read both words used). Being aware of his critics, he also told Alfred Roller, "there's my mass". Therefore, I would argue that Goethe's text is not terribly important at all, until we reach the final "Chorus Mysticus". In fact, the real point is the poetic level of Goethe's German. In that sense, it's like reading Shakespeare (only Shakespeare is even more cryptic, with his many political references). I think it's the musical issues that are more important, or more interesting.

In many ways, the 8th summarizes everything that had happened in western music up to that very moment. At the very least, that's certainly true for the Austro-German line of composers. In a way, the 8th is the Beethoven's 9th of the Belle Epoch, or Art Nouveau ear (sorry, I don't have time to fix spelling mistakes now). At the start of Part II, Mahler is "tone painting" in the classic way that Schubert or others would have. He's setting the scene for Goethe's text. But then the music shifts into Wagner-like episodes, beginning with the first loud outburst, and going all the way until the first entrance of the childrens chorus (right after the bass baritone solo). At the point Mahler switches to Mendelssohn, with strong overtones of his "Midsummer Night's Dream". At the very least, you could certainly argue that the text for the three penitent women is well worth ignoring, unless you take the whole issue of  redemption quite seriously, or literally.

Mahler tried to express all this in a letter to wife his; one in which he became a bit tongue-tied. He tried to make it clear that the focus was on the "Chorus Mysticus", and what it was that Goethe was attempting to express with it. It's little wonder that "cosmic", psychodelic children of the '60s could relate so easily relate to Mahler. Goethe and Mahler are sort of making an acid trip of the soul. As with so many other "heaven storming" moments throughout his entire ouevre (again, please pardon the spelling mistake), Mahler reveals heaven as little more than sheer energy - a much more medieval idea of what heaven is about. It's simply too bright and powerful to observe or comprehend from Earth.

So what am I saying?   .    .     .   forget the text, once you've read the bloody thing. All that truly matters is the tone painting aspects of Part II, and then the final "Chorus Mysticus".
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: klingsor on January 02, 2009, 01:50:56 PM

M4 has a march in the first movement.
M8 the same.
M9 has (as you said), a march in the first movement, but also another in the third movement.
 

I don't know where you hear marches in these movements, can you describe more?   ;)
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: barry guerrero on January 02, 2009, 02:36:29 PM
In the 8th symphony, it's the very beginning. It becomes much more obvious during the big double fugue. The inversion of the "Veni, Creator Spiritus" theme is used as a second subject during the fugue. Deryck Cooke made the interesting observation that in Mahler's 8th, it's the liturgical text that  receives the march treatment, while the secular text - Goethe's text - receives the chorale treatment (for the most part). That's just the opposite of what one would expect.

Barry
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Leo K on January 02, 2009, 02:38:50 PM
I'm convinced that the 6th is Mahler's most German and, simultaneously, most anti-German symphony. Hence, the need for bringing the march to the symphonic forefront. I think it's a mistake to view the 6th as a work that's primarily about Mahler's own personal problems. It's always said that Mahler wasn't interested in politics. I make the opposite argument: there were truly few composers who were more political than Mahler. It's just that Mahler was very guarded and cryptic when it came to discussing his own works, regardless of the fact that he was anxious to get them performed. But Mahler made perhaps THE most political statement of any composer ever: "I am thrice homeless; a Czech among Austrians; an Austrian amongst Germans, and a Jew amongst all peoples of the world; Never wanted, never welcomed". Of course, that's a typical Mahlerian exaggeration. But everything WAS an uphill struggle for Mahler. Nothing was handed to him, for the most part. If you use that statement as a launching platform, it's clear that the sixth symphony was very much a prophetic work, and thus, a warning. As I have pointed out many times, there was nothing unusual or rare about artistic warnings at that particular time in history, as many people viewed the first world war coming from a mile away (I mean that in the figurative sense). Barbara Tuchman discusses this to some length in "The Proud Tower".

If you accept my basic premise about the 6th symphony, then the true purpose of the 8th symphony becomes clear. The sixth pointed a finger at the basic problem of the German speaking world at that time. The 8th then points the way out of the tunnel of darkness. Just as Mahler's personal problems are a parable or allegory for the bigger issues that the sixth symphony is dealing with, so is Goethe's text only a parable or allegory for what Mahler is trying to say to his public with the 8th. Mahler himself left the biggest clue when he called his 8th his "hymn" or gift to the nation (I've read both words used). Being aware of his critics, he also told Alfred Roller, "there's my mass". Therefore, I would argue that Goethe's text is not terribly important at all, until we reach the final "Chorus Mysticus". In fact, the real point is the poetic level of Goethe's German. In that sense, it's like reading Shakespeare (only Shakespeare is even more cryptic, with his many political references). I think it's the musical issues that are more important, or more interesting.

In many ways, the 8th surmises everything that had happened in western music up to that very moment. At the very least, that's certainly true for the Austro-German line of composers. In a way, the 8th is the Beethoven's 9th of the Belle Epoch, or Art Nouveau ear (sorry, I don't have time to fix spelling mistakes now). At the start of Part II, Mahler is "tone painting" in the classic way that Schubert or others would have. He's setting the scene for Goethe's text. But then the music shifts into Wagner-like episodes, beginning with the first loud outburst, and going all the way until the first entrance of the childrens chorus (right after the bass baritone solo). At the point Mahler switches to Mendelssohn, with strong overtones of his "Midsummer Night's Dream". At the very least, you could certainly argue that the text for the three penitent women is well worth ignoring, unless you take the whole issue of  redemption quite seriously, or literally.

Mahler tried to express all this in a letter to wife his; one in which he became a bit tongue-tied. He tried to make it clear that the focus was on the "Chorus Mysticus", and what it was that Goethe was attempting to express with it. It's little wonder that "cosmic", psychodelic children of the '60s could relate so easily relate to Mahler. Goethe and Mahler are sort of making an acid trip of the soul. As with so many other "heaven storming" moments throughout his entire ouevre (again, please pardon the spelling mistake), Mahler reveals heaven as little more than sheer energy - a much more medieval idea of what heaven is about. It's simply too bright and powerful to observe or comprehend from Earth.

So what am I saying?   .    .     .   forget the text, once you've read the bloody thing. All that truly matters is the tone painting aspects of Part II, and then the final "Chorus Mysticus".

Barry, you have always helped me appreciate the M8 more than anybody...thanks!  I find I enjoy hearing this work more and more, especially when I hear it during the holidays,

--Todd
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: barry guerrero on January 02, 2009, 04:18:35 PM
Summarizes, not "surmises". I have to fix other spelling mistakes too, time permitting.

Barry
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Amphissa on January 03, 2009, 01:21:06 PM

Well, Barry, that's probably why the 6th is my least favorite and the 8th is my next to least favorite.
 
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: klingsor on January 04, 2009, 11:43:22 AM

M4 has a march in the first movement.
M8 the same.
M9 has (as you said), a march in the first movement, but also another in the third movement.
 

I don't know where you hear marches in these movements, can you describe more?   ;)




In M9 the first march begins at about 18 minutes into the First Movement.  It's a very slow march, and thus easy to miss noticing as a march.

In M9 the next march appears about 2 or 3 minutes into the Third Movement when the fugue-sounds are beginning.  It has a sound resembling a circus band. 
 By 9 to 10 minutes into the third movement, it sounds like a convention of fuguing marching bands.

In M4, in the first movement (about 9:50) you will hear fanfares and march rhythms followed by warning or menacing trumpet sounds.

You're not alone in not noticing the march-sounds.  There are so many in Mahler that at times it just sounds like normal Mahler.  Look for drums and trumpet fanfares.

David Hurwitz could probably provide more precise directions.

Whoa! I do know the parts you mean, and I do notice march-sounds when they are there. I already mentioned the march episode in M9/I (my favorite passage in all of Mahler, in fact!). As for the one in M9/III, the march you hear is a counter-subject and I guess it qualifies.
In M4 I don't consider the part you mention to be a march per se, it's often heard as a 'pre-echo' of M5/I. That is how I hear it myself.

We may agree that the march rhythm is a pervasive motif in all of Mahler's music. It likely comes from his early experiences, such as the one where he ran out of the house to escape his parents' arguing, and immediately heard a marching band in the street. Without the marches, Mahler wouldn't be Mahler, and we didn't even mention the ones in the songs....  ;)

Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: klingsor on January 04, 2009, 12:39:45 PM
Oh gosh!  You're so right.  I had not even thought of the songs.

My fault for mentioning them in a thread about the least favorite Symphony.

By the way, I don't mean to sound harsh in my last reply. We all hear things our own way  :)
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: chalkpie on August 29, 2009, 06:15:51 AM
Chiming in late here....OK very late......OK very, very, very late...........

Like most, my least played is M8. Simply it's the singing. I prefer instrumental music for the most part. BUT, with my (relatively) limited knowledge on M8, this is sort of the last frontier (if you will) of my exploration of Mahler, may be with M10 also, and in that sense it's a bit exciting knowing I can still discover a lot of music that was penned by GM.

The journey is part of the fun here, and great works by Mahler, and anybody else you can name, always have a naive energy that cannot be duplicated when you have "mastered" the material.
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Russ Smiley on August 29, 2009, 07:55:55 AM
Chiming in late here....OK very late......OK very, very, very late...........

Like most, my least played is M8. Simply it's the singing. I prefer instrumental music for the most part. BUT, with my (relatively) limited knowledge on M8, this is sort of the last frontier (if you will) of my exploration of Mahler, may be with M10 also, and in that sense it's a bit exciting knowing I can still discover a lot of music that was penned by GM.

The journey is part of the fun here, and great works by Mahler, and anybody else you can name, always have a naive energy that cannot be duplicated when you have "mastered" the material.

Late chimes are fine!

Likewise, the vocal works, and M8 chief among them, were/are the last I've warmed to, but I am being won over, especially by the Eighth.  Having sampled and owned several others, over the years, it was the Bertini performance on EMI that started my resonance with the work: Wit's and Gergiev's have added to my appreciation and enjoyment of the work.  My current 'least favorite' has to be Das Klagende Lied: I only recently bought my first recording of it (Nagano): there's much to explore is his great music...
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: john haueisen on August 31, 2009, 01:55:41 PM
Another late chime-in:
Russ, it's probably harder for us to enjoy das Klagende Lied, because it was such an early, dare I say immature work.

I think Russ is right:  that it's harder to warm up to the vocal works.  Maybe it's similar to when I was a kid and first heard opera, and wondered "why they ruin that beautiful music with all that howling."  Then later I came to wonder what the howling was about, since it was associated with such beautiful music.  That got me hooked on opera.  Next, Richard Wagner showed himself to be the superlative author of music drama, (which Mahler so enjoyed showing off to its best).  Maybe a similar thing is at work when we seem to appreciate Mahler's vocal works long after we come to love his others.

--John H
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: Leo K on August 31, 2009, 02:15:08 PM
Hi John, and interesting consideration on the Mahler's vocal works.  I still struggle somewhat with the M8...sometimes I wonder if it is the choral writing, or the long finale with no breaks...I'm not sure.  I am an opera fan as well, so perhaps it is not the choral aspect or length (besides I love the M2 finale)...somehow Rattle's M8 on DVD-A gets my attention because the better sound turns the choral blocks into more a transparent, easy on the ear sound?  Perhaps I just need to see the M8 live at some point?  I also like Horenstein's performance because the energy is very palpable.  I've been warming to this work for years...hoping I will finally love it.  

DLvDE took awhile...but MTT's SACD blew me away and now I love the work truly, with no hesitation, and I now appreciate other recordings even more, like the Kublik on Audite because the key to this work has been unlocked.  I definitely prefer the Baritone voice over the contralto...perhaps this was one of the pieces of the puzzle.

I have never really discussed my issues with the finale to the M6, but I might as well admit it now...I often would prefer to just stop after three movements.  It is rare when I truly love the finale to the M6...the live Haitink LSO, Bernstein VPO and recent Zinman are exceptions, as well as MTT.  The problem I have with the M6 finale is the length, form, and the repeating of certain motives over and over without much variation.  Besides the great intro, the rest is not that imaginative to my taste.  And the power of the past movements overshadow the M6 finale somewhat, at least for me.  The final blows often come across as a little too obvious in most performances I listen too...I sympathize with Mahler's conception, and admire his bravery, because he is an artist who truly creates a challenge.  I think the M6 is a harder nut to crack than the M7 or M8...it takes something very special to bring off that finale.  I sometimes secretly pretend it is an unfinished symphony in three movements...ending on the andante movement.  This is my favorite way to listen to the M6!

There I said it!


 :-X :-X :-X ;D


--Todd

Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: chalkpie on August 31, 2009, 02:53:52 PM
I have never really discussed my issues with the finale to the M6, but I might as well admit it now...I often would prefer to just stop after three movements.  It is rare when I truly love the finale to the M6...the live Haitink LSO, Bernstein VPO and recent Zinman are exceptions, as well as MTT.  The problem I have with the M6 finale is the length, form, and the repeating of certain motives over and over without much variation.  Besides the great intro, the rest is not that imaginative to my taste.  And the power of the past movements overshadow the M6 finale somewhat, at least for me.  The final blows often come across as a little too obvious in most performances I listen too...I sympathize with Mahler's conception, and admire his bravery, because he is an artist who truly creates a challenge.  I think the M6 is a harder nut to crack than the M7 or M8...it takes something very special to bring off that finale.  I sometimes secretly pretend it is an unfinished symphony in three movements...ending on the andante movement.  This is my favorite way to listen to the M6!

There I said it!


 :-X :-X :-X ;D


--Todd



No problem there. IMO the andante is one of the very best movements of GM career, so the finale has a tough act to follow indeed. Still, I love it death and think the andante/finale punch can be SO powerful in capable hands.
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: john haueisen on September 01, 2009, 06:07:52 AM
Excellent points you have made, Todd and Chalkpie!

To try to explain why I still like the M6 with its final movement intact, (and words are so hard to find here):
For me it is like facing up to the reality of Death.  We all know it is going to come eventually, but most of us try not to think about it.  In M6 Mahler knows it's coming, is painfully aware that it's coming, and then he lets it come, annihilating as it is.
It might almost be a relief to have it arrive.  (Is this like what the French call la petite mort?).   To "see" the perspective I am attempting to describe, watch Lenny Bernstein in his performance of M6 (on DVD).  You'll see him painfully wince a second or two before the hammer blows.   He's anticipating the almost unbearable blow--once you finally accept that it is coming, it's impossible to stop it.

--John Haueisen 
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: stillivor on September 02, 2009, 11:51:08 AM
 (Is this like what the French call la petite mort?).


No. The French are talking about orgasms.

M8 is starting to work for me, but I've needed a lot of plays. As with the M6 finale, maybe getting familiar with it is part of the secret. Repeated listenings is the way.

The M6 finale is quite necessary, and is clearly demanding. For me, its a movement that gets better all the time. Just played the Horenstein/Bournemouth version amd was once more discovering new things. His final pizzicato chord is different, tho still, to my taste, just a bit too soon,[tho probably correct by the score I don't have.]

Given a lot of difficulty with 8, it's interesting how much of a success it apparently was at the premiere where the audience had jst the one shot at it.


     Ivor
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: john haueisen on September 03, 2009, 05:55:47 AM
 (Is this like what the French call la petite mort?).


Ivor wrote:  No. The French are talking about orgasms.

I should be ashamed for not remembering that, Ivor.
And yet in M6, isn't each hammer blow similar to a little death--with the frequently recurring suggestion that the third hammber blow being redundant because death has already happened?

--John H
Title: Re: your least-favorite Mahler symphony?
Post by: stillivor on September 06, 2009, 09:56:51 AM
I'd say each hammer blow is like hammer blows in life. They stop the hero [?] in his tracks, say like a heart attack or death of a relation.

After each of the first two, the protagonist goes thru a painful period then recovers, and even finds new joy. The passages before each blow,iirc, are most happy, expansive-sounding.

The last blow is too much; the protagonist struggles on, loses all will or energy; the final exploasion is the coup-de-grace, the final felling, and the last pizzicato chord is life ceasing.

That's my take on it.

I'd be very grateful if the glaring bits of poor playing in the two Horenstein performances could be specified.  I don't know if my insensitivity to them is a blessing or a curse.   :o



    Ivor