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Gustav Mahler & Bach

OT: Mahler [BRML]

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 24, 2005):
Yes, I know, it's not Bach... But I'm sure there are some Mahlerites out there.

I'm curious - I've been listening to the Brilliant Classics Mahler symphonies (the set with different conductors), and, well, I just don't get it. There's some "nice" music there, a bit schmaltzy, a lot sounding like movie music...

Is it me? Do I not get it? Is it the recordings? Should I get another set (the Inbal is available pretty cheap)?

Any thoughts?

Thanks!

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 24, 2005):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< I'm curious - I've been listening to the Brilliant Classics Mahler symphonies (the set with different conductors), and, well, I just don't get it. There's some "nice" music there, a bit schmaltzy, a lot sounding like movie music...
Is it me? Do I not get it? Is it the recordings? Should I get another set (the Inbal is available pretty cheap)? >

I'm partial to the Benjamin Zander series on Telarc: excellent performances and sonics, and he has a bonus disc with each one explaining the music and the interpretation. Ditto for Z's Beethoven series.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 24, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< I'm partial to the Benjamin Zander series on Telarc: excellent performances and sonics, and he has a bonus disc with each one explaining the music and the interpretation. Ditto for Z's Beethoven series. >
OK, but what about my main point - do I just not get it?

John Downes wrote (January 24, 2005):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< OK, but what about my main point - do I just not get it? >
Kirk, without hearing the performances you mention, it's impossible to say. Perhaps they are good performances (but you don't get it) or they are bad performances (and if you don't get it it's not your fault).

Put me down as a big Mahler enthousiast, but it wasn't an overnight thing. In my early 20s I possessed a recording of the Rückert songs (The Janet Baker/Barbirolli recording) on what I regarded as the B side of Elgar's Sea Pictures. I only ever listened to the Mahler when I couldn't be bothered to find another record to play. Then one night... Bang. I suddenly realized how good this stuff was.

Re the Symphonies you can't go wrong with the recordings by Bernard Haitinck or Raphael Kubelik. Quite old but I expect they are still available and probably cheap by now.

Laurent Planchon wrote (January 24, 2005):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< I'm curious - I've been listening to the Brilliant Classics Mahler symphonies (the set with different conductors), and, well, I just don't get it. There's some "nice" music there, a bit schmaltzy, a lot sounding like movie music... >
It's the other way around. Lots of movie music sounds like Malher.

< Is it me? Do I not get it? Is it the recordings? Should I get another set (the Inbal is available pretty cheap)?
Any thoughts? >
Forget recordings, go to a concert, and if possible a good one (like the recent Malher #9 with the San Francisco Symphony and Tilson Thomas). Then you will get it (maybe).

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 24, 2005):
Laurent Planchon wrote:
< Forget recordings, go to a concert, and if possible a good one (like the recent Malher #9 with the San Francisco Symphony and Tilson Thomas). Then you will get it (maybe). >
Concert... Um, I live here: http://homepage.mac.com/kirkmc/PhotoAlbum8.html

We don't have concerts. :-)

Paul Dirmeikis wrote (January 24, 2005):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< OK, but what about my main point - do I just not get it? >
Maybe ? How can anyone know ? Quite difficult to say... It is true that Mahler needs a great conductor AND orchestra, maybe more than any other composer.I'm a Mahler music lover since I saw Visconti's "Death in Venice" with the now famous 5th Symphony's adagietto, when I was 14. I have the complete symphonies in Haitink's version, Bernstein's, Inbal's, and now Boulez's. Maybe Bernstein, with his total commitment, can be the one who might hook you ?

I remember that Stockhausen once said that the best way for an extra-terrestrial being to understand man's soul would be to listen to Mahler's symphonies.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 24, 2005):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< OK, but what about my main point - do I just not get it? >
I find 4, 2, 5, 1, and 9 easier to get into than the other ones.

Mahler's music, sort of like Shostakovich's, has an odd blend of extremes in it: with sublime things and deliberately banal things juxtaposed.

In addition to the Zander series I mentioned earlier, sometime make sure you get to hear the various Klemperer recordings of 2, and Walter's Vienna 5, and Mengelberg's 4. Wow!

This book of essays inspired by 9 is pretty interesting, too, by Lewis Thomas: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0553344129

I like the Herreweghe (!) recording of a chamber version of "Das Lied von der Erde".

This puts me in a mood to listen to the Barbirolli 6 this afternoon.....

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 24, 2005):
Paul Dirmeikis wrote:
< Maybe ? How can anyone know ? Quite difficult to say... It is true that Mahler needs a great conductor AND orchestra, maybe more than any other composer. I'm a Mahler music lover since I saw Visconti's "Death in Venice" with the now famous 5th Symphony's adagietto, when I was 14. I have the complete symphonies in Haitink's version, Bernstein's, Inbal's, and now Boulez's. Maybe Bernstein, with his total commitment, can be the one who might hook you ? >
What do you think about the Inbal? It's _really_ cheap here... Is it worth getting?

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 24, 2005):
< symphonies in Haitink's version, Bernstein's, Inbal's, and now Boulez's.Maybe Bernstein, with his total commitment, can be the one who might hook you ? >
His Columbia set or the DG remake? Vastly different in tempos and other details.....

Craig Schweickert wrote (January 24, 2005):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< Yes, I know, it's not Bach... But I'm sure there are some Mahlerites out there.
I'm curious - I've been listening to the Brilliant Classics
Mahler symphonies (the set with different conductors), and, well, I just don't get it. There's some "nice" music there, a bit schmaltzy, a lot sounding like ovie music...
Is it me? >
Quite possibly. A lot of people are temperamentally unsuited to his music. Even aficionados often find they have to strictly regulate dosage.

< Do I not get it? >
Getting it can take time and work. It helps to place the music in context: pick up a Mahler biography or two. Learn something about Vienna's visual and literary arts scene. Read Freud. Listen to Mahler's predecessors, especially Bruckner and Wagner, and followers, especially Zemlinsky and the Second Viennese School. (Luciano Berio said he chose the third movement of Mahler's Second Symphony as the basis for the third movement in his Sinfonia because Mahler's work "seems to carry all the weight of the last two centuries of musical history.") Pick up a biography or two. (The music abounds in autobiographical re. Mahler is the hero of the First, who is resurrected in the Second. The arhythm of the first movement of the Ninth is said to have been inspired by Mahler's learning of the heart condition that would soon result in his death. Monographs have surely been written on Mahler's relationship with Christianity, which has obvious bearing on his music. Etc.)

Above all, get to know the songs.

< Is it the recordings? Should I get another set (the Inbal is available pretty cheap)? >
Yes. Comparisons are very instructive. Interpreters can grossly be divided into two camps: the Apollonian, the cool and balanced, who maintain a critical distance; and the Dionysian, the hot and involved, who live the psychodrama. Only you can say which pole attracts you. For my part, as much as I admire the work of, say, Kubelik, Kemplerer, Abbado and Boulez, all conductors I'd place in the former camp, their Mahler doesn't always do it for me (though Abbado's Chicago First was my entry into Mahler's symphonic world); the music sounds too smooth, too refined, too normal, too far removed. The allusions to Jewish, Gypsy and Austrian folk music tend to be glossed over. No, I think this music demands a conductor who is not afraid to get his hands dirty, an approach epitomized by Bernstein in both of his cycles.

Inbal is Apollonian to a fault. His beautifully recorded cycle got some great press but I find it a snore-fest. Even at budget price, I wouldn't consider it a bargain.

Bernstein's CBS recordings have been reissued at budget price, and I believe his DG cycle has been available in a mid-priced box. Neither is perfect: The engineering and some performance aspects of the CBS Eighth, for example, are simply botched. The DG Fourth uses a boy soprano in the finale, and the slow tempo of the Ninth's finale is overindulgent in the extreme. Still, in my experience, no one else gets it right so much of the time.

A few budget reccos (in variable sound):
- Walter's First and Second with the Columbia Symphony, though the finale of the First hangs fire
- Kemplerer's Concertgebouw Second, above all for Kathleen Ferrier's Urlicht
- Mazel's Fourth with the VPO
- Mitropoulos's Sixth with the WDR Sinfoinieorchester Köln (on EMI's Great Conductors of the 20th Century compilation)
- Solti's Eighth with Chicago
- The Ninth from Ancerl (part of Supraphon's Ancerl Edition) and Walter's technically fallible but electrifying 1938 performance with the VPO, just days before the Anschluss, stupendously remastered by Dutton.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 24, 2005):
< What do you think about the Inbal? It's really cheap here... Is it worth getting? >
Yes, well played and worth having, good solid musicianship and clear sound. I have several of the individual discs of that Inbal cycle...but I don't listen to them as often as the other (typically more intense) ones I mentioned.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 24, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<< What do you think about the Inbal? It's _really_ cheap here... Is it worth getting? >>
Yes, well played and worth having, good solid musicianship and clear sound. I have several of the individual discs of that Inbal cycle...but I don't listen to them as often as the other (typically more intense) ones I mentioned. >
Interesting... Craig's post says it's boring. Here in France, it was welcomed with the highest ratings at its release; when it was rereleased last year on BC, it was given a mediocre rating. This caused quite a ruckus in the musical press, but the leading classical magazine here (Diapason) said that times have changed, and it no longer sounds good...

Bob Henderson wrote (January 24, 2005):
Exactly my reaction, like movie music, when I was in high school circa 1959. The recording in question was then the Walter Second. Mahler grows. He is the Beethoven of the 20th Century. He storms the hights. Had he lived. No one conducter has a best for all nine altho Bernstein comes close. He was after all responsible not for a revival but for putting Mahler before the public in the first place. His set can be had quite reasonably and still sounds great. Otherwise the new Gielen set is highly recommended and the sonics are state of the art. The Klemperer and Tilson Thomas Second are not to be missed as are the Saraste Fifth and the Barbarolli Sixth. The Gielen Eighth is a revelation. There are many great Ninths: Bernstein with the Berlin, Von Karajan II, Klemperer, Solti with the LSO. The new Chailly is a must. For the Tenth I like Lopez-Cobos and the Cincinnatti. This version is the real Mahler.

Paul Dirmeikis wrote (January 24, 2005):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< Interesting... Craig's post says it's boring. Here in France, it was welcomed with the highest ratings at its release; when it was rereleased last year on BC, it was given a mediocre rating. This caused quite a ruckus in the musical press, but the leading classical magazine here (Diapason) said that times have changed, and it no longer sounds good... >
Yes, I remember very well the dithyrambic reviews in French magazines and they influenced my buying. At that time, the late 80s, I appreciated Inbal's version very much (there's a fantastic string glissando in the 3rd movement of 4th Symphony that still gives me gooseflesh, and that I never heard in any other version). Stating that Inbal's interpretation is boring sounds excessive to me, but I must admit that now, when I want to relisten to one of Mahler's symphonies, I rarely pick up the Inbal's...

Laurent Planchon wrote (January 24, 2005):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< Concert... Um, I live here: http://homepage.mac.com/kirkmc/PhotoAlbum8.html
We don't have concerts. :-) >
Nice area... Don't you get out from time to time ? You are probably 2.30h away from Grenoble and 3h+ from Lyon. I am sure you can hear some Malher there.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 24, 2005):
Laurent Planchon wrote:
< Nice area... Don't you get out from time to time ? You are probably 2.30h away from Grenoble and 3h+ from Lyon. I am sure you can hear some Malher there. >
Yes, for Grenoble that's about correct. But driving that far, over the mountain passes, just to see a concert... Not really. Every time I do have reason to go there it doesn't correspond to any music. (And I do translations for Les Musiciens du Louvre - Grenoble, and would love to see a concert of theirs...)

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 24, 2005):
Paul Dirmeikis wrote:
< Yes, I remember very well the dithyrambic reviews in French magazines and they influenced my buying. At that time, the late 80s, I appreciated Inbal's version very much (there's a fantastic string glissando in the 3rd movement of 4th Symphony that still gives me gooseflesh, and that I never heard in any other version). Stating that Inbal's interpretation is boring sounds excessive to me, but I must admit that now, when I want to relisten to one of Mahler's symphonies, I rarely pick up the Inbal's... >
OK, thanks for that.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 24, 2005):
Craig Schweickert wrote:
<< Do I not get it? >>
< Getting it can take time and work. It helps to place the music in context: pick up a
Mahler biography or two. Learn something about Vienna's visual and literary arts scene. Read Freud. Listen to Mahler's predecessors, especially Bruckner and Wagner, and followers, especially Zemlinsky and the Second Viennese School. (Luciano Berio said he chose the third movement of Mahler's Second Symphony as the basis for the third movement in his Sinfonia because Mahler's work "seems to carry all the weight of the last two centuries of musical history.") Pick up a biography or two. (The music abounds in autobiographical references. Mahler is the hero of the First, who is resurrected in the Second. The arhythm of the first movement of the Ninth is said to have been inspired by Mahler's learning of the heart condition that would soon result in his death. Monographs have surely been written on Mahler's relationship with Christianity, which has obvious bearing on his music. Etc.) >
Gee, that's a lot of work just for a handful of symphonies... :-)

Can you recommend a bio?

< Above all, get to know the songs. >
<< Is it the recordings? Should I get another set (the Inbal is available pretty cheap)? >>
< Yes. Comparisons are very instructive. Interpreters can grossly be divided into two camps: the Apollonian, the cool and balanced, who maintain a critical distance; and the Dionysian, the hot and involved, who live the psychodrama. Only you can say which pole attracts you. For my part, as much as I admire the work of, say, Kubelik, Kemplerer, Abbado and Boulez, all conductors I'd place in the former camp, their
Mahler doesn't always do it for me (though Abbado's Chicago First was my entry into Mahler's symphonic world); the music sounds too smooth, too refined, too normal, too far removed. The allusions to Jewish, Gypsy and Austrian folk music tend to be glossed over. No, I think this music demands a conductor who is not afraid to get his hands dirty, an approach epitomized by Bernstein in both of his cycles. >
Right. I'm looking at the first Bernstein, which is certainly affordable.

< Inbal is Apollonian to a fault. His beautifully recorded cycle got some great press but I find it a snore-fest. Even at budget price, I wouldn't consider it a bargain. >
OK.

< Bernstein's CBS recordings have been reissued at budget price, and I believe his DG cycle has been available in a mid-priced box. Neither is perfect: The engineering and some performance aspects of the CBS Eighth, for example, are simply botched. The DG Fourth uses a boy soprano in the finale, and the slow tempo of the Ninth's finale is overindulgent in the extreme. Still, in my experience, no one else gets it right so much of the time.
A few budget reccos (in variable sound):
- Walter's First and Second with the Columbia Symphony, though the finale of the First hangs fire
- Kemplerer's Concertgebouw Second, above all for Kathleen Ferrier's Urlicht
– Maazel's Fourth with the VPO
- Mitropoulos's Sixth with the WDR Sinfoinieorchester Köln (on EMI's Great Conductors of the 20th Century compilation)
- Solti's Eighth with Chicago
- The Ninth from Ancerl (part of Supraphon's Ancerl Edition) and Walter's technically fallible but electrifying 1938 performance with the VPO, just days before the Anschluss, stupendously remastered by Dutton. >
Noted. Will check some of them out.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 24, 2005):
John Downes wrote:
< Kirk, without hearing the performances you mention, it's impossible to say. Perhaps they are good performances (but you don't get it) or they are bad performances (and if you don't get it it's not your fault).
Put me down as a big
Mahler enthousiast, but it wasn't an overnight thing. In my early 20s I possessed a recording of the Rückert songs (The Janet Baker/Barbirolli recording) on what I regarded as the B side of Elgar's Sea Pictures. I only ever listened to the Mahler when I couldn't be bothered to find another record to play. Then one night... Bang. I suddenly realized how good this stuff was.
Re the Symphonies you can't go wrong with the recordings by Bernard Haitinck or Raphael Kubelik. Quite old but I expect they are still available and probably cheap by now. >
Yes, they are both affordable. Thanks.

Craig Schwickert wrote (January 25, 2005):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< Gee, that's a lot of work just for a handful of symphonies... :-) >
No pain, no gain. ;o)

< Can you recommend a bio? >
For an overview of the life and work, you could do worse than the New Grove article. Also, Deryck Cooke's /Gustav Mahler/ is a classic. Peter Franklin's /The Life of Mahler/ is said to be very good. Henri-Louis de la Grange's monumental four-volume biography is the Everest; I have yet to scale it.

I found the Blaukopf's /Mahler: His Life, Work and World/ useful in understanding the gestalt. I hope one day to get around to reading another classic, Constantin Floros's /Gustav Mahler: The Symphonies/.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 25, 2005):
Craig Schweickert wrote:
< For an overview of the life and work, you could do worse than the New Grove article. Also, Deryck Cooke's /Gustav Mahler/ is a classic. Peter Franklin's /The Life of Mahler/ is said to be very good. Henri-Louis de la Grange's monumental four-volume biography is the Everest; I have yet to scale it.
I found the Blaukopf's /Mahler: His Life, Work and World/ useful in understanding the gestalt. I hope one day to get around to reading another classic, Constantin Floros's /
Gustav Mahler: The Symphonies/. >
OK, there's a good choice...

I checked the de la Grange - it seems that the first part was published in English, and the later volumes in French (at first). But it's not clear which language it was written in. Any idea? (Also, it's horrendously expensive in French... But partly out of print in English. Ah, to have a library nearby...)

Bob Henderson wrote (January 25, 2005):
[To Kirk McElhearn] I have never come to love a work of music through reading about it. Have you?

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 25, 2005):
Bob Nenderson wrote:
< I have never come to love a work of music through reading about it. Have you? >
No, but it can help me understand it better. Reading a bio about Charles Ives and a book about his Concord Sonata gave me many insights into that music...

Bob Henderson wrote (January 25, 2005):
[To Kirk McElhearn] If you are refering to Jan Swafford's "Charles Ives, A Life in Music" I could not agree with you more. What a wonderful bio. It reveals not only the music, but a wonderful and good man, an internationalist, the last true American progressive. Its an evocation of the age as well. But I came to the music first.

I love the image of Ives and Ruggles sitting in Ives upper room in NYC with their whiskey and cigars, banging out stuff on an old piano. Have you heard John Adam's "A Transmigration of Souls"? Definite references to Ives NYC years there.

According to Swafford Mahler took Ives's Third with him back to Vienna when he left New York. With intentions of performing it. Never happened of course.

The great bio of Mahler is yet to be written. Or am I missing it?

My list of great Mahler conductors. For what its worth:

Walter the warmist
Klemperer unflinching
Bernstein most engaged and emotional
Solti most muscular
Barbarolli clean, powerful
Chailly slow but able to sustain the line
Tilson-Thomas transparent but with a Bernstein-like engagement
Gielen straightforward but gets it right
Lopez-Cobos inate understa, balance, transparency

Bart Stolzel wrote (January 25, 2005):
[To Kirk McElhearn] My advice.
Stop messing about.
You already have perfectly good performances.
Listen to nos 1 & 4 exclusively until you know them.
If you dont like them, forget Mahler.
If you do like them, go on to the others one by one.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 25, 2005):
[To Bart Stolzel] Thanks. I've actually listened to no 1 a few times since I first posted yesterday; I think I'm starting to get it. :-)

But I agree that it's probably better to get to know one or two of them well rather than just listening to each of them once in order.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 25, 2005):
< Thanks. I've actually listened to no 1 a few times since I first posted yesterday; I think I'm starting to get it. :-) >
How do you like the "Frere Jacques" slowed way down and put into minor, played there by the basses in the 2nd mvt? Sort of like Offenbach's "Can-can" being slowed way down and played in the bass in Saint-Saens's "Carnival of the Animals"!

In the big ending of the 4th mvt, is that a sideways quote from Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" or not? I've never quite decided....

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 25, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<< Thanks. I've actually listened to no 1 a few times since I first posted yesterday; I think I'm starting to get it. :-) >>
< How do you like the "Frere Jacques" slowed way down and put into minor, played there by the basses in the 2nd mvt? Sort of like Offenbach's "Can-can" being slowed way down and played in the bass in Saint-Saens's "Carnival of the Animals"! >
Yes, that's very neat - Kind of like Eno's version of the Pachelbel canon...

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 25, 2005):
Bob Nenderson wrote:
< If you are refering to Jan Swafford's "Charles Ives, A Life in Music" I could not agree with you more. What a wonderful bio. It reveals not only the music, but a wonderful and good man, an internationalist, the last true American progressive. Its an evocation of the age as well. But I came to the music first. >
Yes, I was familiar with the music, but reading the bio helped me really understand Ives as a person.

< I love the image of Ives and Ruggles sitting in Ives upper room in NYC with their whiskey and cigars, banging out stuff on an old piano. Have you heard John Adam's "A Transmigration of Souls"? Definite references to Ives NYC years there. >
No, I haven't...

As for Ruggles, I've appreciated his music for a long time - it's a shame the Tilson-Thomas set has never been released on CD. I don't have a turntable to play mine on...

< According to Swafford Mahler took Ives's Third with him back to Vienna when he left New York. With intentions of performing it. Never happened of course. >
Yes, I recall reading that.

< The great bio of Mahler is yet to be written. Or am I missing it? >
Apparently there's a huge, several-thousand-page bio by de la Grange. But it seems to be overkill.

< My list of great Mahler conductors. For what its worth:
Walter the warmist
Klemperer unflinching
Bernstein most engaged and emotional
Solti most muscular
Barbarolli clean, powerful
Chailly slow but able to sustain the line
Tilson-Thomas transparent but with a
Bernstein-like engagement
Gielen straightforward but gets it right
Lopez-Cobos inate understanding, balance, transparency >
Thanks, I'll note that to help in my quest.

Stephen Benson wrote (January 25, 2005):
Bob Nenderson wrote:
< My list of great Mahler conductors. For what its worth:
Walter the warmist
Klemperer unflinching
Bernstein most engaged and emotional
Solti most muscular
Barbarolli clean, powerful
Chailly slow but able to sustain the line
Tilson-Thomas transparent but with a
Bernstein-like engagement
Gielen straightforward but gets it right
Lopez-Cobos inate understanding, balance, transparency >

While I might quibble about a few of the specifics, couldn't these adjectives apply generally to their conducting of ALL music and not just Mahler?

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 25, 2005):
<< How do you like the "Frere Jacques" slowed way down and put into minor, played there by the basses in the 2nd mvt? Sort of like Offenbach's "Can-can" being slowed way down and played in the bass in Saint-Saens's "Carnival of the Animals"! >>
< Yes, that's very neat - Kind of like Eno's version of the Pachelbel canon... >
Do you know Sylvia McNair's excruciatingly slow version of that on her "Silver Linings" album?
http://www.google.com/search?q=mcnair+kobialka+silver+linings

I can listen to that about once every three years. I usually stop the disc right after the really slow rendition of the slow movement of Beethoven's "Emperor" concerto, if I'm still awake at the time. Some of the other parts of the album are rather attractive, in an alpha-wave sort of way.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 25, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Do you know Sylvia McNair's excruciatingly slow version of that on her "Silver Linings" album?
http://www.google.com/search?q=mcnair+kobialka+silver+linings
I can listen to that about once every three years. I usually stop the disc right after the really slow rendition of the slow movement of Beethoven's "Emperor" concerto, if I'm still awake at the time. Some of the other parts of the album are rather attractive, in an alpha-wave sort of way. >
That reminds me of something that is somewhere on the web - a 24-hour version of Beethoven's 9th. It is simply a recording slowed down to take 24 hours. Quite entrancing, in its own way, but less interesting than, say, Eno or Philip Glass. I don't have the URL, but you'll probably be able to find it via Google. You can download MP3 files of the whole thing.

Bart Stolzel wrote (January 25, 2005):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< But I agree that it's probably better to get to know one or two of them well rather than just listening to each of them once in order. >
By strange coincidence I was recommending to my neighbour only last week that he get to know the Mahler symphonies in the sequence:
1 - 4 - 2 - 9 - 5 - 6 - 3 - 7 - 8 – 10
He is going to acquire them on CD individually in that sequence. It will cost much more than a complete set, but it means each symphony will be a fascinating new experience.

Jan Hanford wrote (January 25, 2005):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< That reminds me of something that is somewhere on the web – a 24-hour version of Beethoven's 9th. It is simply a recording slowed down to take 24 hours. Quite entrancing, in its own way, but less interesting than,
say, Eno or Philip Glass. I don't have the URL, but you'll probably be able to find it via Google. You can download MP3 files of the whole thing. >
It's one of the most incredibly beautiful things I've ever heard: http://www.notam02.no/9/

Thank you for the suggestion.

Donald Satz wrote (January 25, 2005):
[To Jan Hanford] I just listened to some of "Beethoven Stretched" and find it a bit too slow.
Really, would anyone listen to even one movement at one sitting?

Jan Hanford wrote (January 25, 2005):
[To Donald Satz] Well... yes.

My husband and I enjoy minimalism; the more minimal the better. We to music all day, while working or reading, etc. and the stretched Beethoven is very enjoyable.

Anssi Korkhonen wrote (January 25, 2005):
Bart Stolzel wrote:
< By strange coincidence I was recommending to my neighbour only last week that he get to know the Mahler symphonies in the sequence:
1 - 4 - 2 - 9 - 5 - 6 - 3 - 7 - 8 - 10
He is going to acquire them on CD individually in that sequence. It will cost much more than a complete set, but it means each symphony will be a fascinating new experience. >
I'm new to the list and seem to have subcribed to it in the middle of an extended excursion into Mahler...

Why not to acquire a complete set of Mahler's symphonies and get to know that set in the particular sequence you recommended to your neighbour? In that way it is cheaper and, I suppose, each symphony can still be a fascinating new experience?

My real point, however was about Bach and the B Minor Mass (BWV 232). I've been listening to that work on and off for a number of years. I would very much appreciate opinions as to your favourite recordings of that work. I've found such conductors as Gardiner and Harnoncourt less than satisfactory (Gardiner in particular). So far the best thing that I've found is Harry Christophers and the sixteen choir. Any opinions about that? Any other recommendations?

 

Bach, Mahler, Britten

Terence wrote (October 6, 2005):
I found Kirk's email interesting. I never leave Bach for as long as he has, but what I found interesting was the Mahler and Britten. There must be something relating these three: they are my favourite composers, too, along with Brahms. Some element must link them; perhaps the complexity of the writing, but these are rhetorical questions.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (October 6, 2005):
Terence wrote:
< I found Kirk's email interesting. I never leave Bach for as long as he has, but what I found interesting was the Mahler and Britten. There must be something relating these three: they are my favourite composers, too, along with Brahms. Some element must link them; perhaps the complexity of the writing, but these are rhetorical questions. >
There's no way to tell what links them... This said, they are not the only composers I tend to listen to in large quantities: Schubert is one of my faves, especially his lieder, and the minimalists, especially Steve Reich. But I'm also a fan of the Grateful Dead, ambient music, and much more.

As for Brahms, I've never listened to much of his music yet...

Peter Bright wrote (October 7, 2005):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Perhaps someone could suggest good starting points for Britten and Mahler... I have always loved Britten's playing (his performance of Winterreise with Peter Pears is wonderfully evocative), but surprisingly (being a Briton!) I do not have much of his music (although I have heard his War Requiem). Mahler is also something of a mystery to me - possibly because I have trouble with the symphonic form in general - and this is what I think he is most famous for (?) - I tend to prefer chamber music and solo instrumental works...

Kirk McElhearn wrote (October 7, 2005):
Peter Bright wrote:
< Perhaps someone could suggest good starting points for Britten and Mahler... I have always loved Britten's playing (his performance of Winterreise with Peter Pears is wonderfully evocative), but surprisingly (being a Briton!) I do not have much of his music (although I have heard his War Requiem). >
Try his cello suites - Bach-influenced, and, while not totally typical of the rest of his work (the majority of his music is opera) it shows his idiom well.

< Mahler is also something of a mystery to me - possibly because I have trouble with the symphonic form in general - and this is what I think he is most famous for (?) - I tend to prefer chamber music and solo instrumental works... >
Agreed. But then I discovered Mahler... The 3rd is perhaps the greatest symphonic work of all time.

Paul Dirmeikis wrote (October 7, 2005):
Peter Bright wrote:
< Perhaps someone could suggest good starting points for Britten and Mahler... I have always loved Britten's playing (his performance of Winterreise with Peter Pears is wonderfully evocative), but surprisingly (being a Briton!) I do not have much of his music (although I have heard his War Requiem). Mahler is also something of a mystery to me - possibly because I have trouble with the symphonic form in general - and this is what I think he is most famous for (?) - I tend to prefer chamber music and solo instrumental works... >
To stay quite close to Bach, I'll suggest Britten's wonderful "Three cello Suites".

I also love the moving and powerful "Serenade for tenor, horn and strings" (sung by Peter Pears).

If the big symphonic thing doesn't suit you, may I suggest Mahler's masterpiece (IMO) : "Das Lied von der Erde". There are very few mass orchestral effects (if none), and Mahler worked on the orchestra almost as a chamber orchestra...

My favorite version (even after a good hundred of listenings, I can barely stop emotion bursting) is the one sung by Dietrich Fischer Dieskau, with Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Peter Bright wrote (October 7, 2005):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Many thanks for the tips Kirk... I will try to pick up Mahler's 3rd as soon as I can get it. By the way, while we are on the subject of symphonies, one composer who I definitely love in this idiom is Vaughan Williams - I agreed with Gramophone's CD of the year award a while back for the London Symphony (Hickox), and Haitink's cycle is generally brilliant too...

OK, I guess I should stop pushing this theme too far off topic...

Kirk McElhearn wrote (October 7, 2005):
Peter Bright wrote:
< Many thanks for the tips Kirk... I will try to pick up Mahler's 3rd as soon as I can get it. By the way, while we are on the subject of symphonies, one composer who I definitely love in this idiom is Vaughan Williams - I agreed with Gramophone's CD of the year award a while back for the London Symphony (Hickox), and Haitink's cycle is generally brilliant too... >
I bought a set of VW symphonies last year, and liked them very much. I haven't listened to them a lot, partly because I've been listening to a lot of Mahler.

As for the 3rd, look at the reviews before choosing - I very much like the recent Boulez recording, partly because it has Anne-Sofie von Otter singing, but the Bernstein’s are, of course, magnificent.

< OK, I guess I should stop pushing this theme too far off topic... >
Perhaps... :-)

Kirk McElhearn wrote (October 7, 2005):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< As for the 3rd, look at the reviews before choosing - I very much like the recent Boulez recording, partly because it has Anne-Sofie von Otter singing, but the Bernstein’s are, of course, magnificent. >
I just saw that DG is releasing their Bernstein Mahler symphonies in three bargain boxes. I have the Bernstein Sony recordings, which are brilliant; I'm told the DGs are great as well. You might want to take the plunge, at least, say, for the first box, with syms 1-4. Those are the best to get a handle on Mahler. I really like the 1st; it's, well, fun. The third is profound; the second kind of grandiose. I'm not yet very familiar with the 4th...

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 7, 2005):
Peter Bright wrote:
< Many thanks for the tips Kirk... I will try to pick up Mahler's 3rd as soon as I can get it. >
3rd is good, but if you're relatively new to Mahler it's easier to start with 4, 2, 1, 5, or 9...or Des Knaben Wunderhorn.

Anybody else here a fan of the Herreweghe (!) disc of Das Lied, chamber version? And Ludwig/Wunderlich/Klemperer too, of course.

What does Zander say in his lecture about 3? I haven't picked that one up yet, in the series. This discussion puts me in the mood to listen again to his 6 today.

Stephen Benson wrote (October 7, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< And Ludwig/Wunderlich/Klemperer too, of course. >
And a vote here for the Ferrier/Patzak/Walter, as well.

Craig Schweickert wrote (October 7, 2005):
Peter Bright wrote:
< Perhaps someone could suggest good starting points for Britten and Mahler... I have always loved Britten's playing (his performance of Winterreise with Peter Pears is wonderfully evocative), but surprisingly (being a Briton!) I do not have much of his music (although I have heard his War Requiem). Mahler is also something of a mystery to me - possibly because I have trouble with the symphonic form in general - and this is what I think he is most famous for (?) - I tend to prefer chamber music and solo instrumental works... >
Since you aren't allergic to Pears, I'd suggest you start with the Britten work that knocked the scales from my eyes: the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, surely one of the most brilliant settings of English lyrics by a classical composer and of any lyrics by a modern composer. (And what lyrics! Tennyson's "Blow, bugle, blow", Blake's "The Sick Rose", Johnson's "Ode to Cynthia", Keats's "To Sleep", etc.) Pears and Britten's second recording, for Decca, is superb: what Pears has lost in freshness of voice, he makes up in insight; Tuckwell gives Brain a run for his money; the engineering is excellent; and the coupling is equally definitive performances of Les Illuminations and Nocturne.

As Kirk points out, the operas are Britten's key works. They're also best first encountered in the theatre. Excellent DVDs are now available of Turn of the Screw (Hickox) and Owen Wingrave (Nagano) and good ones of Peter Grimes (Davis and Atherton) and Billy Budd (Atherton). (I haven't seen the only available Midsummer Night's Dream and Death in Venice, the latter such a strange work.) Unfortunately, there's no DVD of the delightfully subversive Albert Herring, probably the best Britten opera for the uninitiated. (The first time I saw it, at Glimmerglass, I went with an eclectic group that included people whose first opera it was and others who'd been to hundreds, whose ages ranged from mid-teens to early 70s and whose tastes in music ran from Top 40 to grunge to Monteverdi. In the second act, adults force teenage Albert to accept the title of May King of the village in recognition of his virtue and to give a speech. At the interval, the first words out of the mouths of every member of the group were, "Wow, I so identified with Albert at the ceremony!") Britten's recording of the work is classic, but in the title role Pears does not sound like an 18 year old (I believe he was in his 50s). Fortunately, the excellent Collins catalogue recording has just been reissued on Naxos.

I wonder about approaching Mahler through either the 3rd symphony or Das Lied. It's like jumping into the deep end without knowing how to swim. (On the other hand, a friend found it was only the 9th that spoke to him when he began his Mahler voyage.) A year ago or so ago, I suggested to Kirk that he begin with the songs. As a Schubert listener, you might find Das Knaben Wunderhorn appealing. Moreover, themes -- musical and psychological -- from the songs reoccur in the symphonies. That Bernstein's DG recordings are being reissued is good news, and that first box would be a natural starting point: arguably the best-ever 1st; excellent 2nd and 3rd; and a 4th whose only quirk is the use of a boy soprano in the finale (it bothers some more than it does me).

Uri Golomb wrote (October 7, 2005):
Just adding my own small bit to this OT discussion. I agree that Mahler's 3rd, fantastic though it is, might not be a good place to start. I still remember how utterly bewildered I felt when I first heard it: the first movement is over 30 minutes long, and I couldn't make heads or tails of it. I persisted, though, and in the end grew to understand and then to love the work.

Symphonies nos. 1 and 4 might be the easiest place to start, and in terms of the range of moods the 5th offers perhaps the most comprehensive vision -- Mahler from his most tragic to his most exuberant, and from his most relaxed and lyrical to his most energetic. AS for the songs -- on-one has yet mentioned the Ruckert Lieder, but I think they're just as fine a starting point as the Wunderhorn song. There are several recitals that feature the two Ruckert cycles (Ruckert Lieder and Kindertotenlieder) together with Lieder eines Fharenden Gesellen. I have such a recital with Brigitte Fassbaender and Riccardo Chailly, which I highly recommend -- unless you are allergic to Fassbaender's voice (some people, myself not included, have that problem). And Gardiner also recorded a fine Gesellen and Rucker Lieder with Anne Sofie von Otter -- but instead of Kindertotenlieder, they put in a series of Zemlinsky songs (which is not necessarily a minus).

Hope this helps...

Kirk McElhearn wrote (October 7, 2005):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< Just adding my own small bit to this OT discussion. I agree that Mahler's 3rd, fantastic though it is, might not be a good place to start. I still remember how utterly bewildered I felt when I first heard it: the first movement is over 30 minutes long, and I couldn't make heads or tails of it. I persisted, though, and in the end grew to understand and then to love the work. >
IMO, the best way to approach it is to listen, perhaps, just to the first movement and become familiar with it. Same with the final movement. The first movement, on its own, is pretty much a complete symphony...

Tom Boyce wrote (October 7, 2005):
Mahler

Am I the only Bach fan out there who finds Mahler's music a trifle vulgar?

Craig Schweickert wrote (October 7, 2005):
[To Tom Boyce] Oh, it's way vulgar. But it's good vulgar, knowingly vulgar, vulgar with
a purpose. Unlike, say, Strauss's Heldenleben or 90% of Puccini. <ducking>

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 7, 2005):
<< Am I the only Bach fan out there who finds Mahler's music a trifle vulgar? >>
< Oh, it's way vulgar. But it's good vulgar, knowingly vulgar, vulgar with a purpose. Unlike, say, Strauss's Heldenleben or 90% of Pu. <ducking> >
Puccini is so vulgar, he made it all the way to the Delta Quadrant as sung by the doctor on "Star Trek: Voyager". And when the holographic diva playing Mimi gets too uppity, the doctor just deletes her.

In another episode, Mahler 1 is blasted on all the speakers throughout the ship, at the command of an alien intruder.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 7, 2005):
Hardcore Mahler fans shouldn't miss the E major symphony by his classmate Hans Rott, 1878. Themes or suspiciously similar-sounding ideas from all four of its movements turn up later in various Mahler symphonies.

Nice piece, if too much triangle used.

According to his teacher Bruckner, Rott was terrific at playing Bach's organ music, and at improvising.

Paul Dirmeikis wrote (October 7, 2005):
Tom Boyce wrote:
< Am I the only Bach fan out there who finds Mahler's music a trifle vulgar? >
I wish more composers could create such kind of triffle, and compose things as vulgar as "Das Lied von der Erde"...
(Sigh) Why is there always someone who thinks he knows better, and can't help exuding drops of pointless and insulting despise ?
Well, we already know that fortunately it takes all sorts to make a world...

Tom Boyce wrote (October 7, 2005):
[To Paul Dirmeikis]
Q.: What goes up, and down, and up, and down, and up, and down...
A.: A Mahler symphony.

Peter Bright wrote (October 7, 2005):
[To Craig Schweickert] This is fantastic - thanks to all for the views on Mahler and Britten - I'll search out good versions of Mahler's 1st, 4th and 5th to begin with plus Britten's Cello Suites, Serenade for Tenor, Horns and Strings and Peter Grimes...

Juan Carlos Herrera wrote (October 7, 2005):
[To Tom Boyce] Another candidates for the up-downer's list are Dimitri Shostakovich's symphonies. But that they are impressive is out of question.

In relation to vulgarity in Mahler's music,as suggested by some list members, my opinion is that this must be clarified. What can be undestood as vulgarity in music? Does it refer to vulgarity in means or to vulgarity in intention? Musical means ( rithm, melody, instrumentation, etc,etc) whatever they are, have a vulgar root, because they come from the vulgo, wich is the people. In this sense it is not at all an offensive word. Even Bach music, wich uses extensively rithms of popular dances is in this sense vulgar. No problem with that. Now on to intention, that is, to what a composer wants to express or address using musical means or elemens. If there is an intention, can it be critizised because it is not good, unacceptable, non-convinient or vulgar as someone can suggest? In this sense I am in the line of O.Wilde who express the idea that art can express anything, good and evil and the only test that it must pass is whether it is well done technically. A good exemple of this is Beethoven´s Kreutzer Sonata, wich was the subject of a Leo.Tolstoy book, in wich he ( being a supreme bigot ) suggest that this music is insane and inmoral, because the wife of a gentleman fell in love with a fiedler while playing together the damned sonata. If Beethoven's intetion was to produce this kind of effect, he succeded absolutelly but he succeded maily in creating a masterpice in terms of musical elements.

In relation to Mahler music, I got intoxicated with it when I was in my teens ( a long time ago ! ) but the years have made me to leave it aside completely. And that was not done on pupose, it ocurred naturally, I did not need it any more. It is not even a souvenir now. I consider Mahler a fact of the youth. This music was no able to permeate through the years and remain in the soul. It just passed .... But in no way I will call it vulgar in intention.

I congratulate all list members that are fond of Mahler, they surely are very young......

Terence wrote (October 8, 2005):
It's been interesting reading everyone's favourites. Like Bach, all of us would recommend a different work(s) to enter his world. I've been listening to Britten, Bach, and Mahler for 40 years, since a teenager. Here's what I would recommend for one going into terra incognita.

Mahler: For small scale Mahler (there isn't much), the Ruckert Lieder. I have hundreds of versions; my pick is Yvonne Minton and Boulez, surprising even to me.

Large Scale: Few listen to whole symphonies, especially early on. Pick a great movement, and move outwards from there to the whole vision. I love the 2nd, 3rd, and 8th. These three will test your speakers. The 2nd, Resurrection, I'd go with the Rattle, though I don't like much else he does; Try the last 25 mins. The same would go for the 3rd's last couple of movements (longest coda in symphonic literature); and the 8th is Desert Island for me. I love Sinopoli's recording, but in a pinch, Solti and Rattle. The last entry of the choir is truly one of the most moving moments in all music. I hate to pick and choose, but these are huge works, that have to be approached gingerly: can one go into a Gothic cathedral and see everything there is in an hour? Best take a small section.

As for Britten, my experience shows that the public works are the way into his world. The entire St Nicholas cantata: try the last movement for goosebumps (Matthew Best on Hyperion); the Serenade of course (everyone loves this; try 'To Sleep'); the Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge is a great work; even the Young Persons' Guide; the War Requiem, considered the finest work of the last century is huge, sprawling, and best heard live, where it leaves everyone shattered.

But if you go into these works by both composers, you'd perhaps soon see what I mean by their being a link between these composrs and Bach, and why they keep drawing us back to their world.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 8, 2005):
[To Juan Carlos Herrera] I have been a reader of the correspondence for some time but only now have been moved to contribute.

I find the discussions on Bach Mahler and Britten fascinating, not least because although I rarely let a day go by without hearing or playing Bach, I have never found Mahler or Britten to my liking. I have a certain sympathy with Tom Boyce's view of the former' s vulgarity----- and for me I find much of Britten, even the much fated works like the War Requiem to be superficial.

But Juan Carlos is right--we need to try to define our terms. By "superficial" I mean that Britten's music -----admittedly original and technically brilliant (neither quality a guarantor of ultimate and lasting greatness in art, in my view) does not stir my emotions in the way that almost any Bach work will inevitably do. Perhaps it is my personality--but I cannot engage with it and I do not find it brings the tears to the back of the eyes which indicates real engagement.

Mahler is different. I find him too long, repetitive and unsubtle. Again, original and technically brilliant (especially the orcgestration) but it fails to move. And I have been trying for around 40 years!! The 6th symphony is the nearest to come to engage me.

I wonif the way which we react to these composers is partly to do with how old we are when we first come to them? Certainly our tastes change with age--I recall being excited beyond belief when I first heard the Verdi Requiem at the age of 19. I still think its a great work ---but much of tha orgasmic excitement is now gone. I didn't begin to explore Mahler or Britten until well after my teenage years--possibly a factor.

And yet I loved Bach as a 14 year old and have lost none of the excitement of hearing either a new cantaa or rehearing the Brandbergs. There is something about Bach which seems to transcend all else??? (Now, can anyone define just what that is?)

Anne Smith wrote (October 9, 2005):
What is it about Bach? [was: Mahler]

Julian Mincham wrote:
< And yet I loved Bach as a 14 year old and have lost none of the excitement of hearing either a new cantaa or rehearing the Brandbergs. There is something about Bach which seems to transcend all else??? (Now, can anyone define just what that is?) >
I suppose it is different for each of us. For me it is the joy in Bach's music.

Robert Brodie wrote (October 9, 2005):
[To Anne Smith] Charles Bukowski once wrote that Bach was the hardest classical composer to play badly, because he made so few spirtual mistakes in his writing.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 9, 2005):
[To Robert Brodie] I would say that he is he hardest composer to play well since every note is so carefully placed and has full significance. The muffing of a single note depletes the whole phrase.

Tom Dent wrote (October 9, 2005):
Peter Bright wrote:
< This is fantastic - thanks to all for the views on Mahler and Britten - I'll search out good versions of Mahler's 1st, 4th and 5th to begin with plus Britten's Cello Suites, Serenade for Tenor, Horns and Strings and Peter Grimes... >
If it's not too late, I would add a few recommendations.

The fact that the Tenth is at least the equal of any of Mahler's symphonies has been obscured by the 'version-problem'. Try the recordings by Wigglesworth (once given away free with BBC music mag.) or Rattle.

For a listener who doesn't much like traditional symphonic form, the Seventh and Eighth are sufficiently un-symphonic. The first part of the Eighth is seemingly M.'s tribute to Bach, being a huge choral-contrapuntal-soloistic-orchestral setting of an old Latin hymn. Warning: it doesn't sound like Bach in the least - more similar to Beethoven's Missa Solemnis plus amphetamines. The second part, though, is comparable only to the last act of Parsifal, or perhaps something by Havergal Brian.

There is so much well-known Mahler (First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth) which I think are not really as good as the abovementioned and Das Lied.

Mahler grew up in a backwater of Mitteleuropa surrounded by banal military marches, little German songs, and all sort of musical Kitsch. Rather than suppress all of this and write Artistic Music with a capital A, he incorporated it in symphonic structures in a way that (hopefully) puts it into perspective as only a starting point. There are also whole movements without any Kitsch at all.

Britten masterpieces not so far raved over are Les Illuminations for soprano and string orchestra (written to French texts supposedly so that BB could overcome his English inhibitions, or something), and Rejoice in the Lamb (settings of Christopher Smart).

What the hell, I might as well mention that I am just now getting into Rawsthorne (a keeper) and Pettersson (undecided), with Howells next on the CD acquisition list.

John Pike wrote (October 10, 2005):
Tom Boyce wrote:
<<Am I the only Bach fan out there who finds Mahler's music a trifle vulgar? >>
Paul Dirmeikis wrote to Tom Boyce:
< I wish more composers could create such kind of triffle, and compose things as vulgar as "Das Lied von der Erde"...
(Sigh) Why is there always someone who thinks he knows better, and can't help exuding drops of pointless and insulting despise ?
Well, we already know that fortunately it takes all sorts to make a world... >
I don't find Mahler vulgar but I can only enjoy it in small doses. I find it just goes on too long for my taste. I often enjoy the openings and then rapidly get bored. My favourite Mahler is symphonies 5 and 9 and the Kindertodenlieder. I quite like symphony # 1 and bits of number 8. I don't know most of the other symphonies at all.

John Pike wrote (October 10, 2005):
Peter Bright wrote:
< This is fantastic - thanks to all for the views on Mahler and Britten - I'll search out good versions of Mahler's 1st, 4th and 5th to begin with plus Britten's Cello Suites, Serenade for Tenor, Horns and Strings and Peter Grimes... >
I bought a number of Britten's own recordings of his music on Saturday. I imagine they will be benchmarks. The Naxos series is also supposed to be good.

I can recommend Barbirolli's recording of Mahler 5.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 10, 2005):
< I don't find Mahler vulgar but I can only enjoy it in small doses. I find it just goes on too long for my taste. I often enjoy the openings and then rapidly get bored. My favourite Mahler is symphonies 5 and 9 and the Kindertodenlieder. I quite like symphony # 1 and bits of number 8. I don't know most of the other symphonies at all. >
An especially engaging one is the November 1939 performance of #4 by Mengelberg, Concertgebouw, and Vincent.

Charlie Ervin McCarn wrote (October 10, 2005):
OT: Mahler Symphonies

Bradlery Lehman wrote:
<
An especially engaging one is the November 1939 performance of #4 by Mengelberg, Concertgebouw, and Vincent. >
No. 7 is fabulous. Try either the NYPO Bernstein or the Abbado recordings.

John Pike wrote (October 10, 2005):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< I find much of Britten, even the much fated works like the War Requiem to be superficial. >
I agreed with a lot of your post but I really must disagree with the comment below most strongly. Of course we are all entitled to our own views but, for me, I cannot think of a word I associate less with Benjamin Britten than "superficial", whether one is talking about his compositions, his pianism or his conducting. In my view he was a most outstanding all round musician.

John Pike wrote (October 10, 2005):
[To Julian Mincha, regarding his 1st message above] I forgot to say that Britten was a fine conductor of Bach. Try his recording in English of the SJP (BWV 245) or his recordings of the Brandenburgs. I don't care much for bach sung in anything other than German, but it is musically a most satisfying account of the SJP (BWV 245).

John Pike wrote (October 10, 2005):
Anne Smith, regarding her message above] A very hard question to answer adequately in 1 minute, but it goes something like this for me:
wonderful melodies, spiritual depth, glorious harmonies, rhythm, joy, desolation and the whole spectrum of human emotion, sometimes all encompassed in just a few bars of music. As a case in point of that last qualit, I just love that quodlibet from the Goldbergs. For me, that superficially innocent piece, based on a couple of popular tunes, contains so much depth of emotion, beautifully captured I feel in one of Glenn Gould's recordings although i can't remember now I come to think of it, whether it 's the 55 or 80s one.

Stephen Benson wrote (October 10, 2005):
John Pike wrote:
< I forgot to say that Britten was a fine conductor of Bach. Try his recording in English of the SJP (BWV 245) or his recordings of the Brandenburgs. >
Thanks for making my day. One of the best things about these discussions is being pointed to discs that have sat far too long on the shelf. Your reference to Britten's Brandenburgs prompted me, on a cold, gray, rainy, upstate New York afternoon to sit down in a front of a warm fire with a glass of cabernet sauvignon and revisit those recordings. His gently pulsating Brandenburg 6 is, without question, my favorite interpretation of what, for me, is one my favorite Bach compositions.

Peter Bright wrote (October 11, 2005):
John Pike wrote:
< music. As a case in point of that last quality, I just love that quodlibet from the Goldbergs. For me, that superficially innocent piece, based on a couple of popular tunes, contains so much depth of emotion, beautifully captured I feel in one of Glenn Gould's recordings although i can't remember now I come to think of it, whether it 's the 55 or 80s one. >
Hi John, you've hit the nail on the head for me by mentioning the quodlibet - A while back I was driving along the M4 listening the Goldbergs (Perahia's recording), when the immense release provided by that movement started. I had to park on the hard shoulder, wipe my eyes and sit transfixed until the last notes of the following aria repeat died away. Something about the build up and astonishing beauty of the preceding movements giving way to this glorious, uplifting movement which, in turn leads back to the point where it all began is probably the most single wondrous moment for me in all music. Nothing affects me as much as that, when played by a great artist...

Juan Carlos Herrera wrote (October 11, 2005):
To Stephen Benson] Does CS mix well with J(S)B ? I will do the experiment. Anyway, thanks for the recipe.

John Pike wrote (October 12, 2005):
JSB, Britten and Mahler

[To Juan Carlos Herrera] Many thanks to all those who have contributed to this discussion. i have bought a few new CDs on the basis of recommendations....JSB, Britten and Mahler, and look forward to them arriving. i will then wash them down with a glass or two of something eminently gluggable, whether it be CS or Shiraz!

 

BCW Article: Bach and Mahler

William Hoffman wrote (June 1, 2012):
With crucial help from Webmaster Aryeh Orion, I have compiled a BCW article on connections between Bach and Mahler, with musical examples and links. The connections involve elements of their music, particularly the dance and polyphony, biographical and historical commonalities, and historical reception and impact. In addition, there is information on Mahler's arrangements of Bach's Orchestral Suites (and BCW Recordings), a listing of Bach works Mahler probably performed, and the coming New York Philharmonic Bach series.
The article was developed from a recent presentation I did for the graduate class, Mus. 537, Music in Vienna 1860-1920, University of New Mexico.

Here's the BCW access: http://bach-cantatas.com/Articles/Bach-Mahler.pdf

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 1, 2012):
William Hoffman wrote:
< With crucial help from Webmaster Aryeh Orion, I have compiled a BCW article on connections between Bach and Mahler, with musical examples and links. >
Fascinating article. I never realized that Bach's influence was so direct:

"Other historical facts bearing on Bachıs influence and Mahlerıs receptivity and expression exist in broad outlines and anecdotes. They begin, as with many composers, in Mahlerıs early study of the <Well- Tempered Clavier>. Next is Mahlerıs first major tenure as assistant conductor to Arthur Nikish at the Leipzig opera house, 1886-1888, in the Saxon city of Bachıs last tenure as sacred cantor and city music director (1723-50). With the opera house closed during Lent, Mahler availed himself of the opportunity to learn the Passion music of Bach first hand. The Thomaskantor, Wilhelm Rust, who had produced 26 volumes of the ³old² Bach edition (BG) between 1855 and 1881, inaugurated the tradition of continuously performing Bach cantatas, Passions, and motets beginning in 1880. In 1893 Gustav Schreck succeeded Rust."

The observations on the composers' common interest in death and pallindrome is revealing.

Charles Francis wrote (June 1, 2012):
[To William Hoffman] Interesting reading, which led me to seek out the following Mahler arrangement of Bach: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AagWS4AdDXY

...as well as Bach reworkings by some well known composers:

Clara Schumann (1845)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_E1WkbAml0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydCaS7ghwZE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0ydu0YFkj4

Schoenberg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwT91pHnlxA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKdnACXeBOc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyEklCYfGdc

Stravinsky
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNAmF6vQTZk

Webern
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdznMSK_iF4

Rachmaninov
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbTqEYrolQk

A BBC Prom concert covered transcriptions by Stokowski, Wood, Walton, Grainger, Sargent, Bantock and Respighi, of which the Walton (Part 3) is most closely related to the cantatas theme of our discussion group: http://tinyurl.com/8ytkjmb

 
 

Gustav Mahler: Short Biography | Arrangements/Transcriptions: Works | Recordings of Works for Orchestra
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Bach and Mahler [W. Hoffman] | Discussions: Gustav Mahler & Bach

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Last update: ŭAugust 22, 2012 ŭ13:49:12