Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gustav Mahler (July 7, 1860)

Mahler is a complex figure -- his origins were Jewish but he converted to Catholicism, and much effort has been made to find his Jewish and non-Jewish identity reflected in his music. Here is what I find an interesting quote from an interview with Daniel Barenboim:
"... One only talks about Mahler’s Jewish origins, and the Klezmer music, and the psychoanalysis and all these things, but basically, without Wagner there would have been no Mahler. And the most interesting thing about Mahler is that he really had one foot in the past and one in the future, that he had one foot in Wagner and the other foot in Schönberg, and as such was a great transitional figure. ... So, in effect, the complexity of Mahler, and its greatest appeal to me, is that it is, in a way, the affirmation of three centuries of musical thinking. ...

"There is a very beautiful, very poetic, video document with Leonard Bernstein, called The Little Drummer Boy, where he talks all about the Jewish background, and all that, and that Mahler had this feeling of guilt of having been Jewish. It’s very lovely and it’s very poetic, but it doesn’t help to understand the music one bit, in my view, not one bit."

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