Saturday, November 12, 2022

A Mahler Fall

My Mahler fall continues. Let me explain. No sooner did autumn start turning leaves a myriad of seasonal colors, and the weather bid goodbye to summer heat, that Gustav Mahler began to make itself present in my life. In many ways this is not unusual. Mahler has always been one of my favorite composers. Very few composers can reach the heights like he can: those lush melodies, those exciting, ear-splitting crescendi, and best of all his concentrated effort time and again for his music to reach the sublime.


In a completely roundabout way, but maybe not, it all started with my introduction to Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto: that popular but strict twelve-tone composition written to honor the death of Manon Gropius, the teenage daughter of Bauhaus giant Walter Gropius and Mahler’s wife, Alma.


What strange times those must have been for Viennese society.  The child of the great architect, and the wife of Vienna’s greatest composer dead at a tender age, and Vienna’s other great composer writing what many consider his masterpiece only to die a short time after its completion. Berg never heard his elegy for Manon, and the piece served to be Berg’s own requiem.


As autumn progressed, the New York Film Festival came to town, and Tár made its debut. In what arguably is this year‘s most interesting film, Cate Blanchett plays Lydia Tár, a virtuoso conductor who is preparing Mahler’s Fifth Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic for a live recording. I saw the movie back in October. Today is November 12 and I’m at the Redeye Grill having dinner before going to see The Berlin Philharmonic led by their music director Kirill Petrenko. They will be playing Mahler’s seventh. And, oh yes, how can I forget. In October I also went to Carnegie to hear Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic. I didn’t know what they were going to play, but when I got there I saw the poster outside of Carnegie Hall and to my great surprise they were going to perform Mahler’s First. Perfect!


Yesterday I was at the Longacre Theatre. I went to see Leopoldstadt, the great new play by Tom Stoppard. Gustav Mahler’s name was on the lips of those Jewish Viennese characters. Sigmund Freud’s name and his radical theory of dreams was also bandied about, but Mahler was praised: he was their composer, the recipient of rousing L’Chaim. A toast I’ll also take a part in for making this autumn so musically memorable.