Monday, July 24, 2017
The veteran Spectator critic lets rip with a rant: Mahler said his time would come; the question now, for me, is when it will go. For the symphonies, up until the last, are all flawed; in different ways, but primarily because they peddle sentimentality as courage, heroism, defiance and piety. Furtwängler, who only conducted any of the symphonies fairly early in his career, told his second wife that when he got to the end of the Third Symphony he felt as if he had slept with a meringue in his mouth. Read on here. Furtwängler’s hostility to Mahler is well documented, and he’s entitled to his view. But if Mahler’s symphonies are flawed, compared to Furtwängler’s windy symphonies they are the greatest works of mankind.
The Gewandhausorchester has named the Russian violist Elizaveta Zolotova as principal viola after a set of summer auditions. Born into a Moscow musical family, she has been a regular at Verbier for the past decade and played in the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, She joined the Staatskapelle Dresden as a section player in 2014 and moved to the Gewandhaus last year. Behind these moves, other wheels were turning. Last year, the Gewandhaus appointed section player Anton Jivaev to be its principal viola. Clearly that did not work out. Jivaev, from Uzbekistan, was asked to reapply for his position in this summer’s auditions but chose to return to his former tenured position within the section. Another player in the section then won the audition. This does not look like a particularly happy outcome. The Gewandhaus has made no announcement of the new principal viola.
During a 1970s Festival Hall concert conducted by Bernard Haitink a serial cougher decided to accompany the posthorn solo in the third movement of Mahler's monumental Third Symphony. Maestro Haitink continued to beat time with his baton while using his left hand to extract a white handkerchief from his pocket and hold it high over his head to encourage the cougher to mute the intrusive noise. Such an action would be unthinkable at the Proms today, because the conductor would spend the whole concert with an arm raised holding a handkerchief. At one time the Proms audience had the enviable reputation of being the best audience in the world, but now it is the noisiest. My most recent visit to a Prom was almost certainly my last. Because not only is the Albert Hall sound poor, the sight lines unacceptable, the ambient temperature too high and the foyer facilities inadequate. But I found myself surrounded by people who made it quite clear that they were not there to appreciate the music, but rather to participate in a mass sonic selfie via persistent coughing, distracting talking, playing with mobile phones and the inevitable politically correct applause between movements. This year a new and important element has been added to this sonic selfie, the conductor's speech. Daniel Barenboim rode his personal hobby horse in his speech at a recent Prom, and next month it is the turn of his fellow Askonas Holt artist Simon Rattle - a shared provenance which, incidentally, I suggest is not insignificant. Let us hope that when Simon Rattle rides his personal hobby horse in his post-Gurrelieder speech he pleads not only for a better London concert hall, but also for a better Proms audience. Also on Facebook and Twitter. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).
In the first part of a fine BBC Radio 4 documentary series on Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s opening year as music director in Birmingham, the Telegraph critic Ivan Hewitt is asked to reflect on her strengths and weaknesses. He proceeds to get his metaphors somewhat in a twist: There are areas of the repertoire where she’s trying things out. Perhaps that symphony (Mahler 1) and others like it might have a certain maleness built in to them, actually…. It’s the sheer size of those musical statements that requires perhaps a more directing personality… Maybe she’s going to have to find her inner man, as it were, just to pull off those really big, rather showy extravagantly subjective pieces… I am sure she’ll crack it. She’ll master anything she turns her hand to. Listen here.
We have been informed of the death of Susan M Filler, a musicologist at Northwestern University who published Gustav and Alma Mahler: A Research and Information Guide(1989; 2nd edition, 2008) and Compendium of American Musicology: Essays in honor of John F. Ohl (1999). She died of cancer on July 7, the composer’s 157th birthday. Susan was 69.
"Mahler said his time would come; the question now, for me, is when it will go. For the symphonies, up until the last, are all flawed, in different ways, but primarily because they peddle sentimentality as courage, heroism, defiance and piety."
Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 - 18 May 1911) was a late-Romantic Austrian-Bohemian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer, he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. While in his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of relative neglect which included a ban on its performance in much of Europe during the Nazi era. After 1945 the music was discovered and championed by a new generation of listeners; Mahler then became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers. After graduating from the Vienna Conservatory in 1878, Malherhe held a succession of conducting posts of rising importance in the opera houses of Europe, culminating in his appointment in 1897 as director of the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper). During his ten years in Vienna, Mahler experienced regular opposition and hostility from the anti-Semitic press. Late in his life he was briefly director of New York's Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. Mahler's uvre is relatively small and is confined to the genres of symphony and song, except for one piano quartet. Most of his ten symphonies are very large-scale works. These works were often controversial when first performed. Mahler's immediate musical successors were the composers Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten are among later 20th-century composers who admired and were influenced by Mahler. The International Gustav Mahler Institute was established in 1955, to honour the composer's life and work.
Great composers of classical music