Mahler’s Third Symphony: A Progression to the Divine

When Gustav Mahler and Jean Sibelius met in Helsinki in 1907, the two composers laid out radically contrasting conceptions of the symphony. Sibelius found beauty and ultimate meaning in the symphony’s “severity of form” and “profound logic.” “No!” Mahler replied. “The symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything!”  No Mahler Symphony gives us a greater sense of this cosmic scale than the Third. Set in six movements, it remains the longest symphony in …

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Mahler and the Cuckoo

Even as a child I was struck by birdsong. -Gustav Mahler The call of the cuckoo, often associated with spring, has long inspired composers. For example, the cuckoo’s harmonious falling major third can be heard in Handel’s Organ Concerto No.13 in F Major, the second movement of Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony, and Frederick Delius’ shimmering 1912 tone poem, On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring. The cuckoo’s call also finds its way into the music of Gustav …

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Good Composers Copy, Great Composers Steal

Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” It’s a philosophy embraced by some of the most creative innovators, including Steve Jobs: the idea of assimilating a good idea and using it as a springboard for something new. Composers have occasionally done this, both consciously and subconsciously, under the guise of “transformative imitation.” Handel, who frequently wrote under time constraints, was famous for borrowing passages from his own previous works, …

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