mahler

Last week, we covered Wagner. Now, it’s time for a trip down Mahler Lane. Born in 1860 in Kalischt, Bohemia, Gustav Mahler was revered as one of the leading composer–conductors of his day. He wrote big: bold symphonies and expansive song cycles with lush, Romantic overtones were his specialty. It is his Sixth Symphony, nicknamed “Tragic,” that follows Seattle Symphony’s performance of the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, June 26–29.

Meet Mr. Mahler, below.

  • Mahler the Wagnerian: Mahler was a fan of Wagner, and he attended a performance of Herr Richard’s last music drama, Parsifal, at Bayreuth in July 1883. Mahler believed that Wagner, through his music dramas, added greatly to the “expressive riches of music.” (And Seattle Symphony is performing works by both composers on a single program. Coincidence? We think not.)
  • Mahler the Conductor: In his own lifetime, Mahler was known as much as a conductor as he was as a composer. He held a number of significant posts, including those of music director of the Hamburg State Opera (1891–1897) and the Vienna Staatsoper (1897–1907). His conducting style was so flamboyant and expressive that it prompted numerous caricatures.
  • Mahler in America: Between 1908 and 1911, Mahler held two of the most prestigious musical posts in America: Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera, and of the New York Philharmonic. Check out the New York Phil’s online, interactive Mahler tribute for more.
  • Mahler and Beethoven: Like Brahms, Wagner and, seemingly, every symphonist in the 19th century, Mahler was enamored of Beethoven. He was particularly obsessed with the composer’s Ninth Symphony. Not wanting to risk a comparison with his idol’s magnum opus (and, some believe, not wanting to tempt fate with the “curse of the ninth” — the superstition that death follows the composition of ninth symphonies, as was the case with Beethoven), Mahler chose not to number the symphonic work that followed his Eighth Symphony, instead calling it Das Lied von der Erde (“Song of the Earth”). Nonetheless, he died before completing his Symphony No. 10. Spooky.

Don’t miss Wagner and Mahler, June 26–29, at Seattle Symphony.

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