“Blumine”: Mahler’s “Blunder of Youth”

Blumine (“Flower”) was the original Andante second movement of Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony. It was eliminated following the the third performance, conducted by Mahler in Weimar in 1894. With this revision, a sprawling and programmatic five-movement tone poem was refined into a symphony. Years later, Mahler dismissed Blumine as “a blunder of youth.” The manuscript resurfaced in 1959 and it was included in a June 18th, 1967 performance conducted by Benjamin Britten. Although some conductors have reinserted this music, …

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The Artistry of Christa Ludwig: Two Songs from Mahler’s “Rückert Lieder”

During the summers of 1901 and 1902, Gustav Mahler wrote five Lieder based on poems written by Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866). Mahler did not intend the Rückert-Lieder (Songs after Rückert) to be performed as a cycle. Originally, the songs were published independently and later grouped together. Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (“I Am Lost to the World”) is the dreamy soliloquy of the solitary artist, which concludes with the lines, “I live alone …

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Returning to Mahler in a Time of Crisis

This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. -Leonard Bernstein in an address following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, November, 1963 On Friday, November 22, 1963, Leonard Bernstein was at Philharmonic Hall, reviewing scripts for an episode of the New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concerts, scheduled to be televised the next day. When initial reports of the President’s assassination came in, …

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Mahler’s Seventh Symphony: A Journey Through the Night

The Seventh may be the most strange and enigmatic of Gustav Mahler’s nine completed symphonies. Its five symmetrically arranged movements take us on a mysterious and haunting journey into the night. This is music that attracted the young Arnold Schoenberg, who heard the crumbling of romanticism in the Seventh Symphony’s daring and sometimes disquieting modernism. Schoenberg’s First Chamber Symphony, completed in 1906—a year after Mahler completed the Seventh Symphony—contains many themes built …

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Remembering Mariss Jansons: Five Great Recordings

The internationally renowned Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons passed away on Saturday. He was 76. For years, he had dealt with a long-term heart condition. Jansons will be remembered for his tireless energy and personal warmth, his legacy as an orchestra builder, and his powerful interpretations of the music of Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Strauss, and Shostakovich, among other composers. He was born in Riga, Latvia amid the German occupation of the Second World War. His …

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Mahler’s “Urlicht” (“Primal Light”), Jessye Norman

Urlicht (“Primal Light”) forms the fourth movement of Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony. It occupies a striking position in the five-movement work’s progression towards ultimate and lasting transcendence. Suddenly, for the first time in this “Resurrection Symphony,” we hear the solitary human voice—a darkly veiled alto imbued with human tragedy and lament. In a symphony rooted in C minor and E-flat major, suddenly we find ourselves in the remote, ethereal world of D-flat …

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Mahler’s Sixth Symphony: The Hammer Blow of Fate

Gustav Mahler said, My Sixth will be asking riddles that can be solved only by a generation that has received and digested my first five. In fact, Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 in A minor remains an unsettling enigma. Completed in 1905 at one of the happiest times in the composer’s life (he had married Alma Schindler in 1902 and they already had two young daughters), the Sixth Symphony is Mahler’s most dark and …

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