Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

Episodes

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01Love20190923

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, love is all around – but for Mahler’s wife Alma, it comes at a heavy price.

Love is a potent force in Mahler’s creative armoury, from the unrequited passion for the soprano Johanna Richter that provided the impulse behind his despairing Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, to the fully requited passion for Alma Schindler that surfaces again and again throughout his work. When Mahler proposed to Alma barely three weeks after their first encounter in November 1901, his friends saw trouble ahead. He was, after all, nearly 20 years her senior – a man at the top of his profession, while she was barely yet a grown-up. Then there was the huge gulf between their personalities and lifestyles – he, work-obsessed and unworldly, she, in the words of Bruno Walter, Mahler’s assistant at the Vienna Opera and later his tireless advocate, “a celebrated beauty, used to a brilliant social life”. But more than any of that, Mahler’s love came with strings attached: he insisted that if they were to marry, she must give up her own aspirations as a composer and focus herself entirely on his needs. All considered, what could possibly go wrong?

Liebst du um Schönheit
Christian Gerhaher, baritone
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
Kent Nagano, conductor

Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (No 4, ‘Die zwei blauen Augen’)
Katarina Karnéus, mezzo soprano
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Susanna Mälkki, conductor

Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen
Dietrich Henschel, baritone
Orchestre des Champs-Elysées
Philippe Herreweghe, conductor

Symphony No 5 (4th mvt, Adagietto)
Philharmonia Orchestra
Giuseppe Sinopoli, conductor

Symphony No 6 (1st movement, Allegro energico, ma non troppo)
Berlin Philharmonic
Claudio Abbado, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

The music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, love is all around \u2013 but it comes at a price.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

02Death20190924

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, Mahler’s obsession with human mortality, which became all too real with the tragic death of his daughter Maria.

The death of his beloved younger brother Ernst, less than a month after the boy’s thirteenth birthday, hit Mahler hard. Perhaps it marked the beginning of the preoccupation with the fragility of human existence that was to become such a hallmark of his work. It may also have inclined him towards the work of the poet Friedrich Rückert, whose Kindertotenlieder – Songs on the Death of Children – charted, in a cathartic cycle of 428 poems, his alternately despairing and accepting reaction to the death of two of his six children, Luise and, coincidentally, Ernst, in an outbreak of scarlet fever in 1833. You can only imagine Mahler’s feelings of guilt when his own young daughter, Maria – ‘Putzi’, as he affectionately called her – died from a combination of scarlet fever and diphtheria, just two years after he had finished setting a selection of Rückert’s grief-laden verses.

Rückert-Lieder (Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen)
Kathleen Ferrier, contralto
Vienna Philharmonic
Bruno Walter, conductor

Symphony No 4 (2nd movement, In gemächlicher Bewegung, ohne Hast)
San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor

Kindertotenlieder (Nun will die Sonn' so hell aufgeh'n)
Janet Baker, mezzo soprano
Hallé Orchestra
John Barbirolli, conductor

Symphony No 6 (4th movement, Finale. Allegro moderato – Allegro energico)
Vienna Philharmonic
Pierre Boulez, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

The music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, Mahler\u2019s obsession with human mortality.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

03God20190925

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, Mahler’s ambivalent relationship to religion.

Mahler is often quoted as declaring himself “thrice homeless – as a native of Bohemia in Austria, as an Austrian among Germans, as a Jew throughout the world – always an intruder, never welcomed.” But while he may have been culturally Jewish he certainly wasn’t devoutly observant, and he wore his Judaism lightly enough to have no problem with converting to Catholicism when it suited him for professional purposes – in 1897 he was offered the directorship of the Vienna Court Opera, but only on condition that he switched faiths. When his friend the set designer Alfred Roller suggested that he compose a mass to celebrate his conversion, Mahler responded that he could write every movement except the Credo. But despite his lack of adherence to a particular creed, Mahler’s work is shot through with a genuine religious sense, from the Second Symphony’s epic depiction of the Day of Judgement to the existential angst of the Tenth Symphony’s Purgatorio movement, via the childlike vision of heaven that brings the Fourth Symphony to a close, and the Eighth Symphony’s decidedly ecumenical pairing of the Pentecost hymn ‘Veni, Creator Spiritus’ with the closing scene from Part 2 of Goethe’s Faust, whose concluding ‘Chorus Mysticus’ celebrates the Eternal Feminine.

Symphony No 8 (Part 1, extract – ‘Veni creator spiritus')
Wiener Sängerknaben
Wiener Singverein
Wiener Staatsopernchor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Georg Solti, conductor

Symphony No 4 (4th movement, Sehr behaglich)
Miah Persson, soprano
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Iván Fischer, conductor

Symphony No 10 (3rd movement, Purgatorio – Unheimlich bewegt)
Vienna Philharmonic
Daniel Harding, conductor

Symphony No 2 (‘Resurrection’) (5th movement, Finale)
Arleen Augér, soprano
Janet Baker, mezzo soprano
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Simon Rattle, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

The music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, his ambivalent relationship to religion.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

05Nature20190927

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, how his profound love of the natural world seeped into almost everything he wrote.

“It always seems strange to me that most people, when they talk about nature, can think only of flowers, little birds, forest fragrance, and so on. No one mentions the god Dionysus or the great Pan. There, now you have an idea of how I make music – always and everywhere, only the sound of nature!” That was Mahler writing to a friend shortly after he had finished work on his Third Symphony, and he wasn’t just expressing himself figuratively. He seemed to wrest his music from the natural scenery that provided his favourite composing environments – like the rolling meadows and angular mountain peaks surrounding Toblach, high up in the Dolomites, where he composed Das Lied von der Erde and the Ninth Symphony, and embarked on what was to be the unfinished Tenth.

Lieder und gesänge aus Jugendzeit (Ablösung im Sommer)
Karita Mattila, soprano
Ilmo Ranta, piano

Symphony No 3 (3rd movement, Comodo)
London Symphony Orchestra
Jascha Horenstein, conductor

Das Lied von der Erde (6. Der Abschied)
Brigitte Fassbaender, mezzo soprano
Berlin Philharmonic
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

The music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, Mahler\u2019s profound love of the natural world.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

20062006120420061211

Henry Purcell (1659-95).

1/5. England's Greatest Composer

Donald Macleod examines Purcell's reputation and explains why he thinks Purcell deserves to be championed above all his compatriots.

Trumpet Overture (The Indian Queen)

Purcell Simfony

Catherine Mackintosh (director)

From rosy bow'rs

Nancy Argenta (soprano)

Nigel North (baroque guitar)

Richard Boothby (viola da gamba)

Paul Nicholson (harpsichord)

The Virtuous Wife - suite

Parley of Instruments

Peter Holman (director)

Golden Sonata

London Baroque

Three parts on a ground

Welcome to all the pleasures

Taverner Consort and Choir

Taverner Players

Andrew Parrott (director)

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976).

1/5. To mark the 30th anniversary of Britten's death, Donald Macleod is joined by Philip Reed to discuss Britten's precocious early career, including the remarkable music produced in his first job for the Film Unit of the General Post Office.

A Hymn to the Virgin

Finzi Singers

Paul Spicer (director)

Night Mail - end sequence

Nash Ensemble

Nigel Hawthorne (narrator)

Lionel Friend (conductor)

AMDG

Polyphony

Stephen Layton (conductor)

The Sword in the Stone - concert suite

Bunyan's Farewell: Litany (Paul Bunyan)

Kenneth Cranham (voice of Paul Bunyan)

Fido....Lillian Watson

Moppet....Pamela Helen Stephen

Poppet....Leah-Marian Jones

Tiny....Susan Gritton

Hel Helson....Jeremy White

Inkslinger....Kurt Streit

Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

Richard Hickox (conductor)

20062006121120061218

Gustav Mahler began early in life to carve out a career as a successful if controversial conductor. Donald Macleod begins his exploration of Mahler's life with his only surviving piece of chamber music and two works inspired by a love affair.

Piano Quartet movement

Christoph Eschenbach (piano)

David Kim (violin)

Choong-Jin Chang (viola)

Efe Baltacigil (cello)

Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen

Thomas Hampson (baritone)

David Lutz (piano)

Symphony No 1 (last movement)

Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

Rafael Kubelik (conductor)

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

1/5. To mark the 30th anniversary of Britten's death, Donald Macleod is joined by Philip Reed to discuss Britten's precocious early career, including the remarkable music produced in his first job for the Film Unit of the General Post Office.

A Hymn to the Virgin

Finzi Singers

Paul Spicer (director)

Night Mail - end sequence

Nash Ensemble

Nigel Hawthorne (narrator)

Lionel Friend (conductor)

AMDG

Polyphony

Stephen Layton (conductor)

The Sword in the Stone - concert suite

Bunyan's Farewell: Litany (Paul Bunyan)

Voice of Paul Bunyan....Kenneth Cranham

Fido....Lillian Watson

Moppet....Pamela Helen Stephen

Poppet....Leah-Marian Jones

Tiny....Susan Gritton

Hel Helson....Jeremy White

Inkslinger....Kurt Streit

Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

Richard Hickox (conductor)

20100420100708

Donald Macleod introduces arrangements of two Mahler songs by jazz musician Uri Caine.

On 11th May 1897, aged just 37, Mahler made a triumphant debut as the director of the Vienna Opera - the post seen almost universally as the peak of his entire profession. It was the culmination of years of careful political machinations, and arguably the high point of his musical career. Little did anyone know that he had already lived nearly three quarters of his life.

In today's episode, Donald Macleod introduces sparkling arrangements of two songs by the American jazz musician and musicogist Uri Caine, as well as the finale of the immense Third Symphony, itself closely related to Mahler's "Wunderhorn" settings.

201901Love20190923

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, love is all around – but for Mahler’s wife Alma, it comes at a heavy price.

Love is a potent force in Mahler’s creative armoury, from the unrequited passion for the soprano Johanna Richter that provided the impulse behind his despairing Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, to the fully requited passion for Alma Schindler that surfaces again and again throughout his work. When Mahler proposed to Alma barely three weeks after their first encounter in November 1901, his friends saw trouble ahead. He was, after all, nearly 20 years her senior – a man at the top of his profession, while she was barely yet a grown-up. Then there was the huge gulf between their personalities and lifestyles – he, work-obsessed and unworldly, she, in the words of Bruno Walter, Mahler’s assistant at the Vienna Opera and later his tireless advocate, “a celebrated beauty, used to a brilliant social life”. But more than any of that, Mahler’s love came with strings attached: he insisted that if they were to marry, she must give up her own aspirations as a composer and focus herself entirely on his needs. All considered, what could possibly go wrong?

Liebst du um Schönheit
Christian Gerhaher, baritone
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
Kent Nagano, conductor

Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (No 4, ‘Die zwei blauen Augen’)
Katarina Karnéus, mezzo soprano
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Susanna Mälkki, conductor

Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen
Dietrich Henschel, baritone
Orchestre des Champs-Elysées
Philippe Herreweghe, conductor

Symphony No 5 (4th mvt, Adagietto)
Philharmonia Orchestra
Giuseppe Sinopoli, conductor

Symphony No 6 (1st movement, Allegro energico, ma non troppo)
Berlin Philharmonic
Claudio Abbado, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

The music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, love is all around \u2013 but it comes at a price.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201902Death20190924

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, Mahler’s obsession with human mortality, which became all too real with the tragic death of his daughter Maria.

The death of his beloved younger brother Ernst, less than a month after the boy’s thirteenth birthday, hit Mahler hard. Perhaps it marked the beginning of the preoccupation with the fragility of human existence that was to become such a hallmark of his work. It may also have inclined him towards the work of the poet Friedrich Rückert, whose Kindertotenlieder – Songs on the Death of Children – charted, in a cathartic cycle of 428 poems, his alternately despairing and accepting reaction to the death of two of his six children, Luise and, coincidentally, Ernst, in an outbreak of scarlet fever in 1833. You can only imagine Mahler’s feelings of guilt when his own young daughter, Maria – ‘Putzi’, as he affectionately called her – died from a combination of scarlet fever and diphtheria, just two years after he had finished setting a selection of Rückert’s grief-laden verses.

Rückert-Lieder (Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen)
Kathleen Ferrier, contralto
Vienna Philharmonic
Bruno Walter, conductor

Symphony No 4 (2nd movement, In gemächlicher Bewegung, ohne Hast)
San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor

Kindertotenlieder (Nun will die Sonn' so hell aufgeh'n)
Janet Baker, mezzo soprano
Hallé Orchestra
John Barbirolli, conductor

Symphony No 6 (4th movement, Finale. Allegro moderato – Allegro energico)
Vienna Philharmonic
Pierre Boulez, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

The music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, Mahler's obsession with human mortality.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201903God20190925

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, Mahler’s ambivalent relationship to religion.

Mahler is often quoted as declaring himself “thrice homeless – as a native of Bohemia in Austria, as an Austrian among Germans, as a Jew throughout the world – always an intruder, never welcomed.” But while he may have been culturally Jewish he certainly wasn’t devoutly observant, and he wore his Judaism lightly enough to have no problem with converting to Catholicism when it suited him for professional purposes – in 1897 he was offered the directorship of the Vienna Court Opera, but only on condition that he switched faiths. When his friend the set designer Alfred Roller suggested that he compose a mass to celebrate his conversion, Mahler responded that he could write every movement except the Credo. But despite his lack of adherence to a particular creed, Mahler’s work is shot through with a genuine religious sense, from the Second Symphony’s epic depiction of the Day of Judgement to the existential angst of the Tenth Symphony’s Purgatorio movement, via the childlike vision of heaven that brings the Fourth Symphony to a close, and the Eighth Symphony’s decidedly ecumenical pairing of the Pentecost hymn ‘Veni, Creator Spiritus’ with the closing scene from Part 2 of Goethe’s Faust, whose concluding ‘Chorus Mysticus’ celebrates the Eternal Feminine.

Symphony No 8 (Part 1, extract – ‘Veni creator spiritus')
Wiener Sängerknaben
Wiener Singverein
Wiener Staatsopernchor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Georg Solti, conductor

Symphony No 4 (4th movement, Sehr behaglich)
Miah Persson, soprano
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Iván Fischer, conductor

Symphony No 10 (3rd movement, Purgatorio – Unheimlich bewegt)
Vienna Philharmonic
Daniel Harding, conductor

Symphony No 2 (‘Resurrection’) (5th movement, Finale)
Arleen Augér, soprano
Janet Baker, mezzo soprano
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Simon Rattle, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

The music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, his ambivalent relationship to religion.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201904The Grotesque20190926

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, the vein of tart humour in Mahler’s music.

In the summer of 1910, with his personal life in turmoil, Mahler visited the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud for a consultation. Years later, Freud recalled that Mahler had related to him an incident from his childhood, in which he had run from the house to escape a particularly acrimonious confrontation between his parents. As he emerged onto the street, a hurdy-gurdy happened to be grinding out the popular Viennese song, ‘Ach, du lieber Augustin’, from which point on, according to Freud’s recollection of Mahler’s account, “high tragedy and light amusement” became inextricably fused in his mind. Whether or not that specific incident was the wellspring, there’s a strong strain of the sardonic, the ironic and the out-and-out grotesque running through Mahler’s entire output.

Des Knaben Wunderhorn (Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt)
Brigitte Fassbaender, mezzo soprano
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Riccardo Chailly, conductor

Symphony No 1 in D (‘Titan’) (3rd movement, Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen)
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Rafael Kubelik, conductor

Symphony No 2 (3rd movement, In ruhig fliessender Bewegung)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Jurowski, conductor

Symphony No 7 (3rd movement, Scherzo: Schatternhaft)
SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg
Michael Gielen, conductor

Symphony No 9 (3rd movement, Rondo-Burleske)
Berlin Philharmonic
Leonard Bernstein, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

The music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, the vein of tart humour in Mahler's music.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201905Nature20190927

Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, how his profound love of the natural world seeped into almost everything he wrote.

“It always seems strange to me that most people, when they talk about nature, can think only of flowers, little birds, forest fragrance, and so on. No one mentions the god Dionysus or the great Pan. There, now you have an idea of how I make music – always and everywhere, only the sound of nature!” That was Mahler writing to a friend shortly after he had finished work on his Third Symphony, and he wasn’t just expressing himself figuratively. He seemed to wrest his music from the natural scenery that provided his favourite composing environments – like the rolling meadows and angular mountain peaks surrounding Toblach, high up in the Dolomites, where he composed Das Lied von der Erde and the Ninth Symphony, and embarked on what was to be the unfinished Tenth.

Lieder und gesänge aus Jugendzeit (Ablösung im Sommer)
Karita Mattila, soprano
Ilmo Ranta, piano

Symphony No 3 (3rd movement, Comodo)
London Symphony Orchestra
Jascha Horenstein, conductor

Das Lied von der Erde (6. Der Abschied)
Brigitte Fassbaender, mezzo soprano
Berlin Philharmonic
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

The music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, Mahler's profound love of the natural world.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

The music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, Mahler\u2019s profound love of the natural world.