Mahler: His Life & Music

Mahler: His Life & Music

by Stephen Johnson

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For Gustav Mahler, there was nothing abstract or escapist about music. 'The symphony must be like the world,' he insisted. 'It must embrace everything.' He lived up to that ideal spectacularly, creating works of such emotional range and imaginative power that each feels like a world in itself. Uniquely, Mahler made himself the prism through which that wealth of experience is refracted. This book follows Mahler's development as man and composer, and sets out the experiences - the personal joys and sorrows as well as the broader cultural forces - that formed him, and made him one of the most widely loved and admired composers in the whole classical repertoire.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781843792598
Publisher: Naxos Of America
Publication date: 01/01/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 1,130,250
File size: 649 KB

About the Author

Stephen Johnson studied at the Northern School of Music, Manchester, under Alexander Goehr at Leeds University, then at Manchester University. Since then he has written regularly for The Independent and The Guardian, and was Chief Music Critic of The Scotsman. He has also broadcast frequently for BBC Radio 3, 4 and World Service, including a series of fourteen programs about the music of Bruckner for the centenary of the composer's death. He is the author of Bruckner Remembered, a contributor to The Cambridge Companion to Conducting, and a regular presenter for Radio 3's Discovering Music. In 2003 Stephen was voted Classical Music Writer of the Year.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
Three Times Homeless

I am three times homeless: a native of Bohemia in Austria; an Austrian among Germans; a Jew throughout the world.

Of all the remarks attributed to Gustav Mahler, this one is perhaps the most famous. From a geographical and ethnic perspective it is, of course, completely accurate. Throughout his life, Mahler was conscious of being an outsider, never quite 'at home'. However, the saying also contains an important spiritual truth. Here Mahler clearly identifies himself with the archetypal romantic figure of 'The Wanderer', celebrated in the titles of three songs by his beloved Schubert, as well as in the same composer's famous 'Wanderer' Fantasy for Piano and great song cycle Winterreise ('Winter Journey'). Mahler may also have had a much older figure at the back of his mind: the legendary 'Wandering Jew', according to tradition punished for mocking Christ as he carried his cross by being condemned to wander over the face of the earth until Judgement Day. In the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Austrian Empire, anti-Semitism was, as we would now say, 'institutionalised'. The Church still taught that the Jewish people were collectively responsible for the death of Christ, and that their dispersal throughout the world (the so-called 'diaspora') was their divinely ordained punishment. Wherever he went, and no matter how much success he achieved as an artist, Mahler continued to run up against anti-Jewish attitudes — expressed sometimes in the form of mild, unthinking prejudice (routine 'Jewish jokes') and at other times as pure, virulent hostility.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Three Times Homeless

Chapter 2: The Wanderer

Chapter 3: Resurrection

Chapter 4: Beyond All Bounds

Chapter 5: Alma

Chapter 6: Heights and Depths

Chapter 7: A Hymn to Eros

Chapter 8: Catastrophe

Chapter 9: 'To Live for You, To Die for You'


Selected Bibliography


Annotations of CD Tracks


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