Gustav Mahler
May 10, 2005 5:38 PM   Subscribe

Help me learn more about Mahler.

I have long loved Mahler's Resurrection Symphony and finally have a little more time to learn about his music. I know the 2nd, the 10th and his orchestration of Schubert's Death and the Maiden, but I'd like to learn more.

I'm looking for a good biography and some resources for developing a sense for how to listen to his oeuvre. I understand that he's meant to be controversial, and that the fuss is over his refusal to develop consistent and recurrent thematic structures, but that's the extent of my knowledge.

I'd like to know who else I should listen to to get a sense for what he's reacting against, and to read a bit about his historical context and aesthetic style. I've got this bibliography, but I suspect that the music lovers in our midst might be able to give more concrete advice. I can read musical notation, if that helps with recommendations. Thanks!
posted by felix betachat to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As a primer, All Music Guide's entry should suffice.
posted by Gyan at 6:36 PM on May 10, 2005

Gustav Mahler by Deryck Cooke. All about Mahler from the guy who finished up the 10th Symphony.
posted by gimonca at 6:38 PM on May 10, 2005

If you can listen to CDs or audio cassettes while you drive, work out, or whatever, then I highly recommend Great Masters: Mahler -- His Life and Music. I also highly recommend any other music courses by Robert Greenberg.
posted by agropyron at 7:48 PM on May 10, 2005

If you haven't already, check out one of my favorite (and cheap) recordings -- the Sony Essential Classics 4th Symphony and the Songs of a Wayfarer with Frederica von Stade. You may also check out the movie Death in Venice based on Thomas Mann's novella (and/or read the book), which the director envisioned as portraying Mahler's life and anyway, is just an interesting movie.
posted by xammerboy at 10:12 PM on May 10, 2005

Don't know much about books (though may try some of the suggestions here!), but you can't beat listening to the music - for the symphonies, I recommend the EMI boxed set of Klaus Tennstedt conducting the London Philharmonic - you get all the symphonies for not too much money. Perhaps someone else can advise on the vocal stuff.
posted by altolinguistic at 1:20 AM on May 11, 2005

For biographical stuff, I enjoyed Karen Painter's 'Mahler and His World', and Stuart Feder's 'Gustav Mahler: a life in crisis', both of which should be available in the library. Mahler led a particularly interesting life, and the biography stuff is great. Also neat is the whole story of his rebirth in the 50s, thanks to bernstein and company; and if you're looking for something a bit more academic, take a stab at Adorno's 'Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy', which was particularly important in establishing Mahler as the respected and canonical composer we know him as, today.

My favourite Mahler is the Symphony No. 6 (La Tragique), which if you ever have an opportunity to experience you should not let it be missed.
posted by cmyr at 7:33 AM on May 11, 2005

Mahler's 8th Symphony is possibly my favorite piece of music ever. Mostly the second part, which is an extended orchestration of the final scene from Goethe's "Faust, Part II," in which Faust's soul is redeemed through the intercession of Gretchen, the woman he wronged, and "The Eternal Feminine." This may sound odd, but that piece has cured me of depression a few times.
posted by dnash at 1:35 PM on May 11, 2005

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