Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

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1909-191020081029

Donald Macleod explores Mahler's life in New York City, a hustling and bustling metropolis that even presented him with women's suffrage marches outside his hotel apartment window.

Despite a successful second season conducting the New York Philharmonic, misfortune struck again when Mahler discovered his wife was conducting an affair with the young German architect Walter Gropius.

Symphony No 1 (2nd, 3rd mvts)

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Georg Solti (conductor)

Decca 475 8230 Trs 2, 3

Hurrah for Woman Suffrage! (words: Nettie Metcalf); Dixie (tune: Daniel Decateur Emmett)

The Homespun Singers

Miriam Reed Productions - Tr 1

In diesem Wetter, in diesem Braus (Kindertotenlieder)

Stephen Genz (baritone)

Roger Vignoles (piano)

Hyperion CDA67392 - Tr 21

Symphony No 10 (excerpt)

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Claudio Abbado (conductor)

DG 447 023-2 CD 12 - Trs 9-13

01
0120061211

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).

0120100705

Donald Macleod focuses on Mahler's childhood and earliest compositions.

In the beginning, before the anguish, the failing health, before even meeting his beloved Alma, Gustav Mahler had been happy - in his way...

In this week's Composer Of The Week, Donald Macleod explores Mahler's early years - from his humble birth in the Bohemian backwater of Kaliste to his triumphant installation as Director of the Vienna Opera at the age of 37.

Mahler's early years are often skipped over by biographers keen to feast on the juicy details of his tempestuous last decade...yet it was in this formative period that the composer wrote some of his very finest works, including his gargantuan, brilliantly original first four symphonies and a veritable plethora of solo songs.

Linking this week's episodes is a focus on the influence of "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" - an anthology of German folk poetry collected by Gottfried von Arnim and Clemens Brentano that obsessed Mahler throughout his youth.

Donald Macleod introduces a host of songs written to texts from the anthology, including all ten set by the composer in his collection entitled "Lieder aus 'Des Knaben Wunderhorn'" - as well as a number of rare early songs inspired by the poems.

Donald Macleod also explores the voluminous textual and musical links between Mahler's symphonies and the Wunderhorn poetry; we'll hear extended excerpts from the first three, and on Friday a complete performance of the apotheosis of his early period, his serene Fourth Symphony.

In the first of this week's exploration of Mahler's "Wunderhorn" period, Donald Macleod looks at the composer's childhood and earliest works, including a rare Piano Quartet movement, and his extraordinary cantata "Das Klagende Lied".

0120110530

There are so many versions of Gustav Mahler that you can pick your own: the ultimate visionary who slipped mysteriously into obscurity for almost a century, the conducting genius recreated in a Ken Russell film, or perhaps the mystical figure re-imagined in the works of jazz musicians and electronic composers.

And then there's one of the most fascinating Mahlers of them all: the one portrayed by his wife Alma in a famously controversial yet compelling biography.

This week Donald Macleod explores this alluring source, and with it the last decade of the composer's life - the 'Alma' years.

It's a portrait which says as much about the biographer as her subject.

We meet a seductress, magnetically drawn to the greatest artists of her time, and who admitted openly that her love was more for Mahler's creative powers than anything else.

But she was also an essential part of Mahler's life, helping to create a stable background for a man utterly obsessed with music both as composer and conductor.

Through her, we glimpse Mahler's many passions and foibles: his quest for physical fitness, his dedication to his home city of Vienna despite the open hostility it returned him, and his emotional frailties which led him to a famed consultation with Sigmund Freud.

We see Alma's weaknesses to, not least her marital infidelity which rocked their marriage in Mahler's last years.

The music includes many of his most impassioned works: the fateful 'hammer blows' of the Symphony no.6, the emotional devastation of the Kindertotenlieder encapsulating Mahler's response to the death of his brother in childhood, and the gargantuan 'Symphony of a Thousand' written in a flurry of emotion at his composition retreat.

There's also a rare chance to hear Alma Mahler's own songs, kept from publication until Mahler encouraged her to release them at the very end of his career.

And we also hear from a landmark BBC broadcast, the first presentation of the posthumously completed Symphony no.10, a programme which Alma Mahler embargoed from repeat transmission.

It's an insight not just into the compositional mind of its creator, but also Alma's ardent belief in herself as the guardian of his legacy.

To open the week, Donald Macleod sets the scene for Mahler's relationship with his wife, from her unflattering account of his clumsiness at their wedding to happy memories of the private symphony premieres he would give her at the piano.

Donald Macleod sets the scene for Mahler's relationship with his wife.

01From Bohemia To Vienna20140210

Mahler is inspired by the countryside in Bohemia and works towards his First Symphony.

Donald Macleod explores Mahler's childhood in Bohemia and his studies in Vienna.

Gustav Mahler rose from humble beginnings on the fringes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to become one of the most powerful figures in the musical establishment. Nowadays his symphonies are almost guaranteed to fill concert halls, but during his lifetime Mahler made his name as a conductor.

Mahler's early years were spent in rural Bohemia, and the sounds and songs of the countryside were to have a lasting influence on his music. His early songs are inspired by teenage sweethearts, while a prizewinning piece of chamber music composed at the Vienna Conservatoire shows the influence of Brahms, Schubert and Wagner. Mahler's passionate affair with a married woman brought on a creative torrent that led to the completion of his first symphony.

02
0220061212

Mahler was drawn to romantic literature and was captivated by the collection of German folk poetry Des Knaben Wunderhorn.

Donald Macleod introduces a selection of his settings plus the final movement of his second symphony, inspired by the Resurrection Ode sung at the memorial service of the man who gave Mahler his first break as a symphonic conductor.

Scheiden und Meiden

Christianne Stotijn (mezzo)

Julius Drake (piano)

Der Verfolgten in Turm; Wer has dies Liedlein erdacht?; Lob des hohen Verstandes; Urlicht (Des Knaben Wunderhorn)

Anne Sofie Von Otter (mezzo)

Thomas Quasthoff (baritone)

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Claudio Abbado (conductor)

Symphony No 2 (final movement)

Arleen Auger (soprano)

Janet Baker (mezzo)

City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus and Orchestra

Simon Rattle (conductor).

0220100706

Donald Macleod explores links between Mahler's early songs and his First Symphony.

In 1885, Mahler was deeply in love for the first time - it wasn't to be the last.

The composer's unrequited passion for opera singer Johanna Emma Richter led to the composition of the exquisite "Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen" for voice and orchestra, which in turn cross-pollinated his First Symphony.

Donald Macleod explores links between Mahler's early songs and his first symphonic work, including a rare performance of the orchestral movement "Blumine".

0220110531

Mahler makes a perplexing response to the birth of a daughter: a song cycle about the death of children.

Donald Macleod explores the motives behind the work, and the reaction of his young wife to his emotional outpouring.

Donald Macleod explores the motives behind Mahler's Kindertotenlieder.

021908-190920081028

Donald Macleod continues his exploration of Mahler's last years, looking at how the composer settled into life in New York and his first experiences conducting the city's orchestras.

Symphony No 7 (5th mvt)

New York Philharmonic

Rafael Kubelik (conductor)

NYP 9807/08 CD 8 - Tr 1

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (Ruckert-Lieder)

Jennie Tourel (mezzo-soprano)

Leonard Bernstein (conductor)

Sony Classical SM2K 47 576 CD2 - Tr 8

Symphony No 9 (4th mvt)

San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

Michael Tilson Thomas (conductor)

San Francisco Symphony 821936-007-2 CD 2 - Tr 2

02The Wunderhorn Years20140211

Mahler finds inspiration for his songs and symphonies in folk poetry.

Donald Macleod explores Mahler's youthful fascination with the anthology of German folk poetry, Des Knaben Wunderhorn.

Gustav Mahler rose from humble beginnings on the fringes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to become one of the most powerful figures in the musical establishment. Nowadays his symphonies are almost guaranteed to fill concert halls, but during his lifetime Mahler made his name as a conductor.

Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth's Magic Horn) was a major influence on Mahler's early songs and symphonies. Mahler loved its mixture of realism and fantasy, of the commonplace and the extraordinary, the tragic and the humorous.

03
0320061213

When he met his future wife Alma Schindler in 1901, Mahler had been working as director of the Vienna State Opera for nearly four years.

In spite of antagonising virtually everyone he worked with, he was responsible for a continuous stream of outstanding innovative productions.

Donald Macleod introduces three works written during the first years of his marriage which celebrate his love for his new wife, including one of the most famous slow movements of all time.

Symphony No 5 (Adagietto)

New York Philharmonic Orchestra

Zubin Mehta (conductor)

Ich atmet einem linden Duft; Um Mitternacht; Liebst du um Schonheit; Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (Ruckert-Lieder)

Brigitte Fassbaender (mezzo)

Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra

Riccardo Chailly (conductor)

Symphony No 6 (first movement)

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Herbert von Karajan (conductor).

0320100707

Donald Macleod presents more Mahler songs inspired by Des Knaben Wunderhorn.

By the early 1890s, Mahler had made a name for himself as one of the most brilliant conductors working in Europe - though his hugely original compositions were seen as more eccentric than brilliant.

In today's episode, Donald Macleod introduces a work that helped secure his reputation: his Second Symphony, the "Resurrection", and explores links between the work and Mahler's settings of poetry from the collection "Des Knaben Wunderhorn".

0320110601

Mahler's relationship with Vienna begins to chill, as he finds himself a victim of anti-Semitism and targeted by critics of his operatic ambitions.

But through his mightiest of symphonies he also draws closer than ever to his young wife Alma.

With Donald Macleod.

Donald Macleod discusses how Mahler's relationship with Vienna began to chill.

03In Charge In Vienna20140212

Mahler lands the most important job of his career, at the Vienna Court Opera.

Donald Macleod traces the course of Mahler's career as he takes up the most prestigious post in music, Director of the Vienna Court Opera.

Gustav Mahler rose from humble beginnings on the fringes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to become one of the most powerful figures in the musical establishment. Nowadays his symphonies are almost guaranteed to fill concert halls, but during his lifetime Mahler made his name as a conductor.

Mahler had landed the most important job of his life, but his conducting duties in Vienna often prevented him from composing. Yet during the summer, in his woodland composing hut on the banks of Lake Attersee in Upper Austria, he would write some of his most enduring symphonies.

Symphony No 4 in G major (2nd mvt)

Cleveland Orchestra conducted by George Szell

In diesem Wetter (Kindertotenlieder)

Hermann Prey, baritone

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink

Symphony No 5 in C sharp minor (1st mvt)

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein

5 Rückert-Lieder

Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano

NDR Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner

Producer: Callum Thomson.

04
0420061214

In the summer of 1907, tragedy struck when Mahler's daughter Maria died.

Soon afterwards, Mahler discovered that he had a heart defect which would ultimately kill him.

Donald Macleod introduces his setting of a series of poems on the death of children, written some years before the loss of his own child, and one of the biggest symphonic works ever conceived.

Kindertotenlieder

Janet Baker (mezzo)

Halle Orchestra

John Barbirolli (conductor)

Symphony No 8 ? first movement

Vienna State Opera Chorus

Vienna Singverein

Vienna Boys' Choir

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Georg Solti (conductor).

0420100708

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.

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

0420110602

Mahler's relationship with his wife is dealt a hammer blow with the death of their daughter.

Donald Macleod explores the emotional consequences, including a musical response of the deepest intensity.

Donald Macleod focuses on the consequences of the death of Mahler's daughter.

041910-191120081030

Donald Macleod describes how Mahler's last full season in New York got off to a difficult start as the composer fought to present an image of marital stability following his wife's affair with the German architect Walter Gropius.

Tensions were also apparent between the conductor-composer and members of his New York Philharmonic orchestra.

Ging heut morgen ubers Feld (Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen)

Janet Baker (mezzo-soprano)

Halle Orchestra

John Barbirolli (conductor)

EMI Classics 566981 2 - Tr 12

Symphony No 4 (4th mvt)

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam

Willem Mengelberg (conductor)

Philips 426 108-2 - Tr 4 (mono)

Symphony No 5 (4th mvt)

New York Philharmonic

Klaus Tennstedt (conductor)

NYP 9807/08 CD 5 - Tr 4

Symphony No 8 (Part 1)

Chorus of the Vienna State Opera

Vienna Singverein

Vienna Boys' Choir

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Georg Solti (conductor)

Decca 414-493-2 CD1 - Trs 1-6

04The Arrival Of Alma20140213

Donald Macleod examines the influence on Mahler's music of his wife Alma.

Donald Macleod examines the influence on Mahler's music, for good and ill, of his wife Alma.

Gustav Mahler rose from humble beginnings on the fringes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to become one of the most powerful figures in the musical establishment. Nowadays his symphonies are almost guaranteed to fill concert halls, but during his lifetime Mahler made his name as a conductor.

Alma Schindler, known at the time as "the most beautiful woman in Austria", entered Mahler's life around the turn of the 20th century. She initially found the composer abrupt and dogmatic, but their relationship sparked into life very quickly and they were engaged within three weeks, despite Mahler's reluctance about the age difference between them. Their relationship would determine the course of the rest of Mahler's life.

Symphony No 6 in A minor (2nd mvt) (Scherzo)

London Philharmonic Orchestra conduc ted by Klaus Tennstedt

Der Einsame im Herbst; Von der Jugend; Von der Schönheit (Das Lied von der Erde)

Violeta Urmana, mezzo-soprano

Michael Schade, tenor

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Pierre Boulez

Symphony No 7 (5th mvt)

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Chailly

Producer: Callum Thomson.

05
0520081106
05 LAST20061215

It was in his new summer retreat in the Austrian Tyrol that Mahler finished his final song cycle, The Song of the Earth.

Donald Macleod introduces a vintage recording of the complete work, conducted by one of Mahler's greatest champions, Bruno Walter.

The series concludes with the monumental slow movement which ends Mahler's last completed symphony, not heard in public until a year after his death.

Das Lied von der Erde

Kathleen Ferrier (alto)

Julius Patzak (tenor)

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Bruno Walter (conductor)

Symphony No 9 - final movement

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Claudio Abbado (conductor).

05 LAST20100709

At the dawn of the 20th century, now firmly installed as the most powerful musician in Europe, Gustav Mahler bade farewell to his youthful "Wunderhorn" period, to embark on a tempestuous final decade of love and death, ecstasy and despair.

To end this week's exploration of Mahler's early years, Donald Macleod introduces a complete performance of the composer's serene Fourth Symphony, the pinnacle of his first compositional period and his most profound fusion of song and symphony before "Das Lied von Der Erde", a decade later.

Donald Macleod introduces a complete performance of Mahler's Symphony No 4.

05 LAST20110603

No wonder Mahler turned to Sigmund Freud for help - his wife's infidelity was laid bare and his health was deteriorating.

Donald Macleod charts Mahler's final turbulent years, beginning with part of a BBC radio programme which Alma Mahler kept away from public ears for many years after her husband's death.

Donald charts Mahler's final turbulent years.

05 LASTNew York20140214

Donald Macleod explores Gustav Mahler's final years at the Met and New York Philharmonic.

Donald Macleod explores Mahler's final years at the Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic.

Gustav Mahler rose from humble beginnings on the fringes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to become one of the most powerful figures in the musical establishment. Nowadays his symphonies are almost guaranteed to fill concert halls, but during his lifetime Mahler made his name as a conductor.

Mahler left the Vienna Court Opera to take up a lucrative position at the Metropolitan Opera, and later another at the New York Philharmonic. He would spend his final years travelling back and forth across the Atlantic and working on his most ambitious symphonies. A moment of personal crisis would colour the composition of his last work.

Symphony No 8 (Symphony of a Thousand) (Part I)

Chicago Symphony Orchestra, soloists and choruses, conducted by Georg Solti

Mahler, completed Deryck Cooke: Symphony No 10 (1st mvt) (excerpt)

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle

Symphony No 9 (4th mvt)

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein

Producer: Callum Thomson.