Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Symphony Guide on Mahler 9

I don't have time to put up a post this morning, but I do want to draw your attention to the new Symphony Guide essay on the Symphony No. 9 by Gustav Mahler in today's Guardian. I might make some comments later on.


Rickard Dahl said...

I received my Scarlatti CD box a while ago now but for some reason the CDs don't work when inserted in my laptop. It has a blu-ray drive but ofc CDs and DVDs work too (or should at least). I also have some other CDs that for some reason don't work when inserted in my laptop. On the other hand my PS3 has no problem with playing any CD so the fault isn't the fact that it's a blu-ray drive. So anyways, haven't started listening to the Scarlatti yet but I decided to give Mahler another go and been listening to his symphonies again (more specially 9th, 10th, 8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th & 3rd so far). So having listened to most of his symphonies again I can say that my taste for his music has improved. I enjoy almost all of the symphonies (the exceptions are the 8th which doesn't feel like a symphony due to all the singing pretty much through the whole symphony (the symphony loses its' flow) and the 5th which has too many moments that don't sound good). I think my favourite might be the 7th but in general I think his later symphonies are better, more mature maybe. Well, either way they certainly are masterpieces of titanic proportions (pun intended). A great thing I noticed in Mahler's symphonies is that the woodwinds sound very witty. On the other hand Mahler can sound Disney-y or even circus-y at times.

As for the 10th symphony I'm aware it wasn't completely finished but attempts were made to "finish" it and I have listened to this version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0rsFah8aY0 I think I heard a saxophone in one of the movements, which is a nice touch I think.

I noticed that Sibelius might have been inspired by the 2nd movement of Mahler's 9th. I might be wrong but around 29:00 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWxX-kf-2MI that reminds be of a Sibelius symphony, not sure which one.

At around 1:14:55 in Mahler's 3rd https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AwFutIcnrU it really seems to have the feel of Chopin's famous Funeral March.

Bryan Townsend said...

When you listen on your laptop, do you have external speakers? Otherwise, it is going to sound pretty thin! And I can't imagine listening to Mahler on a laptop... But that is weird that the Scarlatti won't play.

In my project to listen to all the important symphonies, I bogged down in Mahler's 7th. The one I still want to get to is the 9th, which I have been putting off. Instead, I've been listening my way through the nearly-complete Debussy.

Sometimes in Mahler I have the feeling that I am listening to a banquet scene at Hogwarts, but that is probably because the film composer John Williams stole a lot from Mahler.

Rickard Dahl said...

Well, no external speakers, maybe I should get some. Yes, exactly, John Williams has probably been inspired by Mahler quite a lot.

Anyways, I've been trying to listen to all Mahler I can find. Several of his earlier works have been lost though, which is always a shame. I've noticed that most of his output are symphonies and songs. Some of his songs come in several arrangement, some are included in his symphonies. I got the impression that he is one of the composers who except for being skilled at writing instrumental music also seem to be skilled in writing for voice. I'm not a singer though so can't be sure about the suitability of the music for singing (i.e. whether it is written with sensibility for the singers) but I think he has nice sung melodies. Also, earlier had the mistaken idea that Mahler had more of a potemkin approach due to his bombastic orchestrations and lengths but I realized he has many solid themes and even nice melodies in his symphonies. Maybe his music does go overboard sometimes but I enjoy it for the most part.

Bryan Townsend said...

My favorite piece by Mahler has always been Das Lied von der Erde and yes, he is a marvelous composer for the voice. He spent most of his life conducting opera, after all.

Bryan Townsend said...

Re speakers, I think that for someone who listens to music, they are essential on a laptop. You really need the bass!

I have used a couple of different brands. Logitech has some cheap ones, but I don't think the sound is any good. What I am using now, with my iMac as well as a laptop, is a Bose Soundlink Mini. It is a battery-powered Bluetooth unit so no wires. But it delivers a surprisingly big sound.