critic, scholar, performer
(not necessarily in that order)
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Today marks the hundredth anniversary of Gustav Mahler's death. More than that of any other composer (besides maybe Schubert) Mahler's music and, accordingly, his reception, have slanted towards this event. The symphonies are premonitions, announcements, refusals, acceptances of the end. To more fully appreciate the master, we probably need to escape this cliche--there are far more ways to interpret the Ninth than as a man slowly sliding into his oblivion. But for today, we listen to the Ninth, Das Lied von der Erde, and the Tenth. I'll be hearing the Adagio from the Tenth as well as Das Lied with the Berlin Philharmonic tonight (you can watch it live here).
I am reminded of a short, poignant article which appeared in the Times in 1989 (and which Alex Ross quotes in Listen to This). There's no need to explain it; you can read it here. The Ninth can be Mahler's death; it can be the death of tonality; it can be the death of political freedom in Vienna. Tomorrow, it will be something else entirely. Perhaps life.