Mahler & New York... personal reflections

Chi_townPhilly

New member
Sr. Regulator
(Semi-dedicated to Steve, who is in the midst of a Mahler listening project-)


The impact of New York (and more particularly, the New York Philharmonic) on the legacy of Gustav Mahler is comprehensive and inarguable. To begin with, there's the biographical fact that Mahler served as Principal Conductor of the New York Philharmonic late in the opening decade of the previous century.

For those who have a passing awareness of the Philharmonic's standing as the oldest Symphony Orchestra in America, it might be surprising to learn that there was a time when the Philharmonic wasn't even considered the best band in New York. That distinction was held by the New York Symphony (Society) under the leadership of Leopold Damrosch. Their primacy was such that the Philharmonic was relegated to a part-time ensemble.

As the century turned, the Symphony Society's helm tranferred to the hands of Leopold's equally famous (if not quite as musically capable) son Walter. The resulting loss of stature aided in giving the Philharmonic the opportunity to reorganize to full-time once again- and emerge as a very credible rival to the Symphony Society. For those who didn't have grudges or critical axes to grind, the Philharmonic's ascendency was further helped by their employe of one of the half-dozen most famous conductors of the time (and, it must be added, MUCH more famous as a conductor than as a composer, at that point)- one Gustav Mahler.

To be continued... readers' thoughts between installments HIGHLY cncouraged!:)
 

Contratrombone64

Admiral of Fugues
I hate to say this, but I find Mahler's music delightful in small doses, but his symphonies I find unendurably tedious on the whole and I know this will not please you to read.

However, I do own a couple of versions of the symphonies complete, and the one with the Czech Philharmonic is probably my favourite.

If I had to single out a single one: it would be the divine 4th.
 

White Knight

Spectral Warrior con passion
(Semi-dedicated to Steve, who is in the midst of a Mahler listening project-)


The impact of New York (and more particularly, the New York Philharmonic) on the legacy of Gustav Mahler is comprehensive and inarguable. To begin with, there's the biographical fact that Mahler served as Principal Conductor of the New York Philharmonic late in the opening decade of the previous century.

For those who have a passing awareness of the Philharmonic's standing as the oldest Symphony Orchestra in America, it might be surprising to learn that there was a time when the Philharmonic wasn't even considered the best band in New York. That distinction was held by the New York Symphony (Society) under the leadership of Leopold Damrosch. Their primacy was such that the Philharmonic was relegated to a part-time ensemble.

As the century turned, the Symphony Society's helm tranferred to the hands of Leopold's equally famous (if not quite as musically capable) son Walter. The resulting loss of stature aided in giving the Philharmonic the opportunity to reorganize to full-time once again- and emerge as a very credible rival to the Symphony Society. For those who didn't have grudges or critical axes to grind, the Philharmonic's ascendency was further helped by their employe of one of the half-dozen most famous conductors of the time (and, it must be added, MUCH more famous as a conductor than as a composer, at that point)- one Gustav Mahler.

To be continued... readers' thoughts between installments HIGHLY cncouraged!:)

Thanks so much for your mention of my name in the same post which contains that of Mahler. My father has a 10cd box set of all his symphonies, and I am attempting to work my way thru all of them;so far I've sampled the First {my favorite so far}, the Fifth and Sixth.
 

Art Rock

Member
Staff member
Sr. Regulator
In contrast to Contratrombone64, I love Mahler's music. I have his complete output, often in more than one version. E.g. I have 8 CD's of Das Lied von der Erde in five different settings.

My favourites:
1. Das Lied von der Erde
2. Kindertotenlieder
3. Symphony 4
4. Symphony 9
5. Rueckertlieder
These would certainly be amongst my 50 favourite compositions of all time.
 

Chi_townPhilly

New member
Sr. Regulator
While Mahler lived, his famous prophecy concerning his compositions was "my time will come." It didn't come during his lifetime, nor did it come in the several decades after his passing- as his compositions continued to be viewed as fringe repertoire. Still, Mahler's New World band, the New York Philharmonic, was more game than most when it came to progamming his pieces. Probably the most convincing exponent in that role, pre-Baby Boomer generation, was Music Director Dmitri Mitropoulos. What recordings exist of Mitropoulos indicate that he set standards that hold up well even today. Mitropoulos, like Mahler before him, also shared with Mahler the fact that full appreciation of his accomplishments didn't come until after his death.

However, it was with Leonard Bernstein that the Philharmonic's Mahler performances came fully into both the regional and national performing-arts consciousness. Today, even experienced, aging music commentators who've heard multiple renditions by several virtuoso ensembles speak with fondness of the time they first discovered these masterworks via Bernstein's interpretations, "learning [them] the 'Lenny Way;'" as one of their number put it.
 
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