Gustav Mahler was one of the greatest conductors and composers of his time, acclaimed throughout Europe and America for his full-blooded interpretations of a repertoire that ranged from Mozart and Beethoven to Wagner and Strauss, and for his own richly orchestrated pieces. Today his music is almost a cult: intensely emotional and evocative, it stirs and inspires the listener, and it awakens curiosity as to the nature of the man who created it.This book brings together a wealth of contemporary material--letters, reviews, concert programs, diary extracts--to create a picture of Mahler in his own words and those of his friends, colleagues, and critics. From his early childhood to the days of his final triumphs in Vienna and New York, his life, attitudes, beliefs, conflicts, loves, and losses are recorded and presented in vivid detail. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (5)
Mahler With Love
Having been an afficionado of Mahler for over 50 years there was nothing much in this book I didn't know, but it was intersting and enjoyable nonetheless,particularly because of the heavy use of quotes from actual letters and documents. I found particularly poignant the telling of Mahler's last days at the NY Philharmonic and his troubles with its board's womens auxiliary and then, finally, his last trip home to Vienna and his death
Mahler: His Life, Work and World
It's a great story about Mahler, his time, and his life. If you use this book together with some CD's you get an opportunity to learn about his music AND to understand it. How wonderful .... Helmut
it deserves the 5 stars...
** Mahler (1860-1911) must have lost heart of composing after seeing Freud?
The circumstances surrounding the composition of the Tenth were highly unusual - the revelation that his young wife had had an affair with the architect Walter Gropius
The unsettled frame of Mahler's mind found expression in the despairing comments (many addressed to Alma) written on the manuscript of the Tenth, and must have influenced its composition: (True?) on the final page of the short score, Mahler wrote, "für dich leben! für dich sterben!" (To live for you! To die for you!) and the exclamation "Alms chi!" underneath the last soaring phrase.(Alms=money for the poor???) Alma kept the score with its final tribute in her living room - like a hunting trophy - the score refers to his unfinished 10th symphony. Was it inscribed on the score of the 10th? Mahler composed sketches of five movements!!!!
There is no sign that Mahler ever worked on the 10th Symphony again (Started in July 1910) after his visit to Freud in August 1910 - until he died August 10, 1911.Could it be that he intentionally kept his 10th unfinished - In Sept 1910 Mahler ended his efforts on the 10thDid he leave it unfinished for Alma to complete the work after he's gone; as to make up for his mistake when (1902) he ruled Alma out of composing. Or he did not finish it and temporarily put it aside to be able to make final revisions to the Ninth?
Mahler struggles in the 10th. a) Dissonance piled on dissonance and pierced by a high trumpet A, which erupts in the first movement. The shock of Gropius letters? Alma's accusations? (of WHAT??) Hardly less appalling is the muffled drum stroke which ends in the fourth movement and is repeated in the fifth. Alma links it to the episode when they heard together from a funeral cortege which passed far below their hotel window during their first winter in New York (Mahler's gloom during his happiest days-backlog of anti-Semitic complexities!!). Perhaps that is where Mahler got his raw material, but doesn't he use it here to a deeper and more recent movement with the echoes of the song about a child left to starve to death. Isn't Mahler now (or again) the abandoned one? - Again backlog of anti-Semitic complexities!!-He scrawled tortured words on the manuscript among them "" Mercy!! Oh God! Oh God! Why hast thou forsaken me?""--""The devil dances it with me/Madness seize me, accursed one/Destroy me/That I forgot, that I am"" like several notes Mahler left for Alma in the farmhouse. He may have written something more shocking on the bottom half of the Purgatories' title page, but the section has been sliced off, presumably by Alma.
After Mahler sought counseling from Sigmund Freud and on the verge of its successful première in Munich he dedicated the Eighth Symphony to Alma in a desperate attempt to repair the breach. ((Premiered in Munich on September 12, 1910 featured a chorus of about 850, with an orchestra of 171)) Did Freud recommend that Mahler dedicate his 8th to Alma?
Emanuel Garcia - an American psychoanalyst - puts this case eloquently in a paper made public in 1994.
Mahler suffered from Oedipal Conflict - A complex of males; desire to possess the mother sexually and to exclude the father; said to be a source of personality disorders if unresolved -
Quote"" In the unending debate about the effectiveness of psychotherapy, the creativity question remains unresolved. What happens to art when medicine meddles with an artist's mind? There are two known instances of composers who sought psychiatric help. On the afternoon of 26 August 1910, Gustav Mahler spent four hours discussing his marital difficulties with Sigmund Freud as they strolled through the Dutch town of Leiden. The two great minds achieved instant rapport. Freud said later that no-one had ever grasped psychoanalysis so swiftly. Mahler, for his part, felt much better. 'Be joyful!' he cabled his young wife, Alma. unquote
***Two persons must have shaped Mahler's personality:
1)Leo Pinsker (1821-1891) was born in Poland.
One of the first Jews to attend Odessa University, he studied law, but realized that, as a Jew, he had little chance of becoming a lawyer, so he studied medicine at the University of Moscow, returning to Odessa to practice in 1849. When pogroms started in Odessa in 1871, enlightened Jews were distraught. Assimilation activities ceased and Pinsker returned to medicine, becoming prominent in public life. Within a few years, these activities were renewed, but they were brought to a sudden halt in 1881, when another wave of pogroms began in southern Russia.
The concept of channeling Russian Jewish emigration to one country was rebuffed in Vienna and Paris, where Jewish leaders favored emigration to the U.S. rather than a Jewish homeland.(Mahler also did so).
"... to the living the Jew is a corpse, to the native a foreigner, to the homesteader a vagrant, to the proprietary a beggar, to the poor an exploiter and a millionaire, to the patriot a man without a country, for all a hated rival."
2)Sigmund Freud: 1856-1939
Was Freud interested in music at all? Exactly what Freud cured is unclear. Emmanuel Garcia, psychiatric consultant to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, has postulated a theory that Mahler's libido ((psychoanalysis) a Freudian term for sexual urge or desire) was restored by talking to Freud. If so it made little difference, as Alma continued seeing her young lover, the future Bauhaus founder, Walter Gropius. As for any effect on Mahler's music, there was none. He died nine months later, of heart disease. Freud, seeing the obituary, sent the estate a back-dated invoice. Privately, Freud acknowledged that his treatment of Mahler had been superficial. It was, he said, 'as if you would dig a single shaft through a mysterious building'.""
*** Alma MARIA Mahler?? (Maria) - Maria is Mahler's mother name!!!! Mahler's first daughter' name was Maria too - she died of scarlet fever!!!
**His last words were "Mozartl" - (a diminutive, corresponding to 'dear little Mozart'
Now, let me go back in time:
**In 1902, Mahler married Alma Maria Schindler, the daughter of a Viennese painter; she was very much younger than her husband. The same year the Second Symphony was performed again, this time to great acclaim. His symphonies were being published and interest was being shown in performing his works. Mahler's scrupulous ethics - Characterized by extreme care and great effort - meant that he would not promote his own works; he rarely conducted performances of his symphonies and disapproved when singers from the Vienna Opera performed his songs as part of recitals, but beyond Vienna his reputation as a composer was growing.
**Did Alma love their first born daughter (who died in infancy) -Putzi (1902-1907) because the baby caused great pain on delivery - breech deliver - ?? > Mahler joked `'baby has come out with her tattouz facing the world''
**Mahler's Sixth Symphony "tragic"" written during his happiest periods. Married in 1902, two babies 1902-1904, isn't that strange?Same as in (Songs on the Death of Children), for voice and orchestra (1901-1904
**Alma loved her husband AFTER he was gone (Not before!!)(Was it so ??) She simply saw the difference when she married her lover Gropius.Strange that when she was not married to Mahler, she loved him and hated her husband after marriage. When she was not married to Gropius, she loved him and only hated him after marriage... was she a balanced woman??
**Das Lied von der Erde - the song of the Earth - 1908-1910- is having Chinese characteristics - taken from Chinese Poetry... he completed (The Song of the Earth), and his Symphony No. 9, that Mahler avoided numbering it as a symphony due to a superstitious fear of the. However as Song of the Earth he did it late in his life (1908-1909) was that to demonstrate his growing disgust with Western Culture that was anti-Semitic.
**Mahler rose to prominence as musical director of the Vienna Opera, and under his leadership the VO experienced its golden age.
**Complexities of being a Jew. Mahler was born in Kalischt, Bohemia, on July 7, 1860.At the time, Bohemia (later to form a major component of Czechoslovakia, and later the Czech Republic) was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, then enduring its final crumbling decades, and the region where Mahler spent his youth was strongly associated with the Czech independence movement.
However, Mahler also was a Jew, and Jews in the region were associated by ethnic Czechs with Germans.Mahler famous quote is: "I am thrice homeless, as a native of Bohemia in Austria, as and Austrian among Germans, and as a Jew throughout the world.Everywhere an intruder never welcomed."
Then add to that the fact that the public considered Mahler to be a gifted conductor (not a composer!!) with a habit of writing long music. Mahler is also known for the length, depth, and painful emotions of his works. - so public initially must have treated his composing same as Mahler's treated Alma's!!)
**He loved nature and life and, based on early childhood experiences, feared death (family deaths, a suicide, and a brutal rape he witnessed). This duality appears in almost all his compositions, especially in the Kindertotenlieder ("Songs on the Deaths of Children"), which are actually about the loss of an innocent view of life.
**During his leadership of the Vienna Opera he attempted to present Richard Strauss' opera, Salome. Mahler was a basically prudish man, and his wife, Alma Mahler, later stated that he had argued against Strauss setting Wilde's Salome. Strauss, of course, went ahead and composed the piece, submitted it for production by the Vienna Opera, and was informed that the Censorship Board had banned the work due to Strauss' references to Christ and "the representation of events which belong to the realm of sexual pathology..." Rather than agree with the Censor, Mahler instead argued to "...in matters of art only the form and never the content is relevant, or at least should be relevant, from a serious viewpoint. How the subject matter is treated and carried out, not what the subject matter consists of to begin with-that is the only thing that matters. A work of art is to be considered as serious if the artist's dominant objective is to master the subject matter exclusively by artists means and resolve it perfectly to the 'form...'".
Mahler's reign lasted until 1907. He then accepted an offer to conduct the Metropolitan Opera.He conducted two seasons, and then accepted a two-year contract from the Philharmonic Society (now the New York Philharmonic.)
Mahler's time in New York was not positive--he had a low opinion of American concertgoers and musicians, did not get along with the New York critics, and fought with the management of both the Met and the Society.Mahler died in 1911, in poor health and exhausted from his New York battles.
**As Mahler was forced to spend most of the year conducting, he was, throughout his career, a summer composer.He conducted fall through spring, and then retreated to the country to compose.Mahler thus limited his composing to only two genres--the symphony and lieder. Although Mahler had a thirty year long composing career, his complete works could be assembled on fifteen or sixteen CDs.
**His trip to New York. He still needed to provide an income to support his wife and second daughter and so, in late 1907; he accepted an offer from the Metropolitan Opera in New York to conduct the season of 1908. For the next four years, he travelled between Europe and America.
best book so far on Mahler
I cannot improve upon the excellent review previously posted, except to add that the book includes a nice year-by-year biographical section near the beginning of the book, AND dozens of photographs, including an illuminating silhouette sequence of Mahler conducting.This gives us a rare look back in time, at what those watching Mahler in action were able to see.
Better, and better balanced, than most Mahler biographies
This brand-new paperback edition of the 1991 revised English translation of a 1976 indispensable "classic" is superior to virtually any combinationof individual Mahler biographies that come to mind. I hope I'm able toexplain why in this review, and to further explain how it is that a book onMahler can be a "page turner."
The music of Gustav Mahler has been thecenterpiece of my musical listening for virtually all of my adult life, inexcess of 40 years now. It's fair to say that it started for me, as it didfor others of my generation, with the recordings of Bruno Walter in thelate '50's and Leonard Bernstein and others throughout the '60's. It's alsofair to say that Mahler's music engenders intense personalization on thepart of a listener who is drawn in, to the extent that there is a never-ending desire to know more about the man, his creative processes, hisquite obvious contradictions, and the bipolar way in which hiscontemporaries, his critics, his musicians, and audiences and critics eversince his death, have characterized the man and the music.
I have yet toread a Mahler biography or critique that is not in one way or anothercolored by the thoughts and opinions of the biographer, starting with thefirst Mahler biography I read about 30 years ago, by his widow, AlmaWerfel-Mahler. Each has had a "pitch," an agenda, which has left rather anincomplete, and often judgemental, picture of this complex human being.Perhaps, had I read all of them in an attempt to weigh matters in thebalance, I would have been satisfied in having reached a reasonablyaccurate overview.
Kurt and Herta Blaukopf, in their "Mahler: His Life,Work & World," have done something quite different and remarkable. As aresult of reviewing what must have been millions of words by and about theman and his music, incorporating the most up-to-date research on theavailability of these materials, and selecting and incorporating thosepieces that illuminate the man, his music, his life, and the times in whichhe lived, a gripping yet balanced portrait of Mahler, from birth to thefirst posthumous performance of his "Das Lied von der Erde," conducted byBruno Walter on November 20, 1911 (six months after his death).
Along theway, we follow him through success and failure, appointments gained andappointments lost or surrendered, works that came relatively easily andworks that resulted only from Herculean struggle, through his own words andthe words of friends, associates, subordinates, superiors, acquaintances,rivals, and critics (who, it is clear to see from the selections chosen forthis volume, were clearly on one side or the other in the matter of theworth of his music). In several instances, the juxtaposition of criticalreviews by admirers and detractors, published the same day but in differentpapers, lead one to ask "Were these two critics at the same concert?"
Thepages literally fly by. When, in the last year of his life he experiencedhis greatest triumph (the first performances of hs Eighth Symphony) in theface of mortality, the narrative becomes absolutley gripping, despite itsbeing comprised of nothing more than what is in the written record. Thelast dozen or so entries are simply heartbreaking in their poignance as theend approaches, a fellow composer places a valuation on his estate astestator, and, six months after Mahler's death, Anton von Weberncorresponds to Alban Berg about the text to the final poem in "Das Lied vonder Erde" and how, in planning for the two of them to travel to Munich tohear this as-yet-unplayed music, in the premiere conducted by Walter, heknows that they will "...expect to hear the most wonderful music that thereis. Something of such magnificence as has never yet existed." And of courseWebern was absolutely correct in his assessment.
The Blaukopfs note intheir Preface that "The biographer who seeks to portray an artist is unableto resist colouring the picture with his own ideas. Documentation, on theother hand, is more disciplined: it provides the reader with the factualcomponents of Mahler's life and identifies their sources. Each individualcan then fit these pieces together to form their own Mahler portrait." Atbarely 250 pages, this book is a treasure for the Mahlerite. It could havebeen twice or three times as long and still have been the page-turner thatthe Blaukopfs have created from the private papers and public records ofGustav Mahler.
Every Mahlerite should have this volume in his or hercollection.
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