Mahler Turns 157

Today marks the 157th anniversary of the birth of Gustav Mahler. Mahler was born on July 7, 1860 in the sleepy village of Kaliště (population 330) in what is now the Czech Republic. He was only a few months old when his parents moved the family to the larger regional center of Jihlava. (The city’s German name is Iglau).

Below is a live concert performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony from this past March. Andrés Orozco-Estrada leads the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. Mahler’s Fifth pays homage to Beethoven’s Fifth in some subtle but interesting ways (for example the solo trumpet’s opening “short, short, short, long” rhythm which returns in second movement). The Symphony’s five movements are divided into three sections. The first two movements form part 1. A sombre opening funeral march is followed by a ferocious, even ghoulish, second movement which Mahler marks, Stürmisch bewegt, mit größter Vehemenz. You’ll hear motives from the opening movement return in the second. The sunny Austrian Ländler Scherzo makes up the interior section. In the final section, the sensuous, dreamy Adagietto sets the stage for the Rondo finale, a vigorous, ecstatic tour de force of counterpoint which culminates in swirling triumph.

We’ll go deeper into this monumental piece in a future post. For now, just listen and enjoy the power of this incredible unfolding musical drama:

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