Gustav Mahler “Expanded the Orchestra to its Breaking Point”

Gustav Mahler was born in 1860 in what is now the Czech Republic. Wikipedia calls Mahler a “bridge between the 19th-century Austro-German tradition” and modernism. His output wasn’t great and he worked mainly as a conductor.

Mahler’s symphonies, the profile says, employed large orchestras, choruses and vocal soloists. ClassicalNet says that Eighth Symphony includes one thousand performers, eight soloists, adult and children’s choirs and other expansive elements.

In many – but not all – cases recognition was slow to come. His major works include the Symphony No. 2, the Symphony No. 3 and the Eighth Symphony. Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern a and Benjamin Britten were influenced by Mahler.

ClassicalNet’s profile, which was written by Paul-John Ramos, says that Mahler’s music is from the late-Romantic period and evokes strong passion, from “fierce adoration to outright dislike.” It says that Mahler “expanded the orchestra to its breaking point” and approached the “New Music,” of the time, which was atonality.

The tone of the two profiles seems to differ a bit: ClassicalNet suggests that Mahler more actively reacted to the anti-Semitism he encountered: Even though his conservatory periods in Prague and Vienna were successful, the discrimination led him to leave and support himself as a conductor in small concert halls in Bohemia and Hungary. Wikipedia’s emphasis is on the fact that he converted in order to have his work performed. The Nazis banned his music, which was rediscovered after World War II.

Mahler was only 50 years old when he died of a blood infection in Vienna in 1911.

Above is the “Urlicht” element from Symphony No.2. It was performed in June by Orchestre National de France, which was conducted by James Gaffigan. Below is the first moment of the Third Symphony, played by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev. The recording was made in 2007.


Our New Things: Links to Music Sites and Info on Analog Tech and Vinyl

TDMB has focused on music and musicians. We will continue to do that, of course. We're also expanding our coverage to include vinyl and analog equipment.

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-- Assessing the Value of Vinyl Records: An Overview

-- 7 Quick Tips on Optimizing Your Turntable Cartridge

-- Why Vinyl Records Continue to Thrive

-- Finding the Best Amplifier

-- Finding the Best Phono Preamp

-- What Speakers Do I Need for My Turntable?

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Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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