Mahler thoroughly a composer of our time

Posted on: May 17, 2011

“The very first note of Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony signals that you’re in for something on a whole new scale,” writes Anne Midgette in Sunday’s (5/15) Washington Post. “It’s a single note, an A, in the strings, quiet and sustained, evoking the humid tang of sulfur in the air and the pregnant hush before rain. But that single note extends over seven octaves—that is, it’s being played from the lowest to the highest ranges in the orchestra. It’s at once tiny and huge and intensely personal. This is why Mahler, who died 100 years ago this week, remains one of today’s most popular symphonists: It’s this personal quality to his music, the sense that, at bottom, it’s really about you. … The symphonies—9, or 10, or 11 of them, depending on how you count—are a kind of soundtrack to the 20th century. … In the early 20th century, they were seldom-played exercises in modernity. … Today, you find the symphonies everywhere: on every orchestra season, at every Grammy Awards (five different Mahler albums have won since 2000). Beethoven is our link with the past; Mahler is our connection to the present. His music is multi-tasking, rife with extra-musical meaning, often ironic and filled with ambiguity and contradiction: all very well-suited to our time.”

Posted May 17, 2011