Requiescat in pace
It’s been forever since my last post. February, eh? Damn… I should be posting more.
Anyway, I felt today would be a good day for a blog post. Today is the 100th anniversary of Mahler’s death (interesting how people celebrate births and deaths).
Mahler’s death is one to be remembered, not celebrated, honored, not cheered.
And certainly not something to be made a meme out of. Yes, I’m talking about you, Daniel and Tyler.
How should one remember Mahler?
If this were Mahler’s birthday, I’d say “GO SPLURGE ON MAHLER. SPLURGE! HOLD ON LET ME GET MY SCORES. WE’LL GO ON A MAHLERATHON! EVERY TWO-HOUR SYMPHONY FROM START TO FINISH”
But it’s not.
Since people are also still busy (damned Northwestern quarter system), it’s not advisable to listen to a whole ton of Mahler in one day, mainly because it’s kinda impossible at this time (I should’ve written this blog post a couple days beforehand).
Here’s a listening guide that I have concocted to remember Mahler’s death, which, my violin teacher Aaron Krosnick would say, could’ve been prevented by a heart bypass surgery.
- Symphony No. 6, “Tragic”
- Wailing winds, ghoulish xylophone excerpts, screaming and bellowing brass, mysterious distant church bells interspersed with cowbells to create an eerie pastoral scene as if part of a flashback, strict marches flourished with fanfare and tam-tam roars, passionately sweeping strings, and of course, THE MIGHTY HAMMER (Mahlerians know what’s up)
- According to many melodramatic Mahlerians like myself, he pretty much foreshadowed his next three misfortunes with each of the three hammer blows, the third, which he excised out of superstitious fear, foretold his death.
- Yes, this is the author’s favorite Mahler symphony. Yes, he does prefer the third hammer blow. He also prefers the scherzo-andante order of the middle movements (hardcore Mahlerians know what I’m talking about)
- Recommended: Benjamin Zander with the Philharmonia Orchestra
- Symphony No. 9
- Mahler believed intensely in the Curse of the Ninth (the superstitious belief that composers die after having written their ninth symphony, e.g. Beethoven). He tried to circumvent by writing Das Lied von der Erde as a kind of Symphony 8.5. Then he wrote a Ninth.
- Mahler quoted Beethoven’s “Lebewohl” (Farewell!) in this symphony. He seemed to really believe that he was going to die, and this was his farewell.
- Symphony No. 10 (Unfinished)
- But he persisted anyway and tried writing another symphony. Too bad he started too late and actually died before finishing it, just like Beethoven, and he thus fulfilled his own Curse of the Ninth superstition. However, did he know that he was going to die while writing this? There is a movement titled Purgatorio, a quote from Dante, but possibly also a self-reference?
- Symphony No. 5: I. Trauermarsch
- I can’t remember if Mahler wrote more than one serious funeral march, but this is definitely his most famous one. Mighty and somber, I don’t think Mahler would’ve minded having this performed during his funeral
- Symphony No. 1: III. Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen
- This is completely optional. Just in contrast to the actual funeral march, this is a parody of one, but a brilliant parody of a funeral march, which includes a Frère Jacques fugue + Klezmer music. It’s actually pretty hilarious.
- Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection”
- Of course, Mahler must rise from the dead, right? Just kidding. That’d be scary. Yeah.
- But still, this is intensely powerful music that has changed lives and moved people to tears. I fell in love with Mahler’s music after hearing a live performance of this, as it told of death and resurrection (sorry to say this, Alan, but I think it tops Strauss’ Tod und Verklarung by a mile) so magnificently.
- There’s really no reason not to listen to this.
- Symphony No. 8, “Symphony of a Thousand”
- Mahler is alive and well! Praise the lord! If Mahler had to praise the lord, he did it with this, and it’s pretty damned hard to top this. Written for enlarged orchestra, eight vocal soloists, double chorus, and children’s choir, it’s easy to see why it won its nickname (which Mahler doesn’t like, by the way).
- This is perhaps his most explicitly religious work, beginning with VENI! VEEENNI CREATOR SPIRITUS (Come, come creator spirit!)
That’s my Mahler Deathday playlist! Give it a spin! Let me know what you think!