Author Topic: Mahler "revival" in the 60s  (Read 3725 times)

Offline Mountaine

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Mahler "revival" in the 60s
« on: December 07, 2009, 05:30:45 PM »
Hello everyone  :D

I was on one of the old lists a few years ago, but just found this one.  The Asheville (NC, USA) Symphony is doing M4 in May, and I'm writing an article for the spring program book.  I'm interested in what happened in the 60s to cause the music world to notice Mahler more than before.  I know Bernstein had views on this, and I am looking for quotes from him and others relating the appreciation of Mahler to the heightened sense of global worries in the atomic age and during the cold war, and also the increased use of psychedelics in the late 60s.  Any comments from members of this forum will also be appreciated.

Personally, I was already a lover of classical music and opera in the mid-60s, when I was in high school, and a friend lent me his recording of M1 (gosh, I can't remember which recording) and later M2 (Klemperer).  I was hooked immediately.  My first live performance was a fantastic M2 with Bernstein and the NY Phil.  I definitely was a self-identified "freak" (I considered the word "hippie" something the mainstream press used to describe my tribe in a derogatory way), and found the music of Mahler to be ideal for traveling through inner emotional journeys of self-discovery.  I still do!  I feel like his music, when performed well (so I feel safe in the hands of the conductor, able to let go into the music without fear of being distracted by serious mistakes in interpretation), takes me on an inner roller coaster ride that is one of the greatest and most reliable and consistent pleasures I experience in life.  How about THAT for a rave review of a composer's music?

Comments, quotes, links, references, please!

Offline Jot N. Tittle

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Re: Mahler "revival" in the 60s
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2009, 12:00:25 AM »
Mountaine, your posting has been unanswered for too long a time.

I think you are spot-on when you speak of "traveling through inner emotional journeys of self-discovery." I believe many people had that experience, and at a time of social tension. Lewis Thomas got some mileage out of this with his essay, "Night Thoughts while Listening to Mahler's Ninth." He did not, however, cast any new light on the Ninth, as I recall.

Mahler's revival was given a boost when the LP came to the market. The old 78s just couldn't handle him. Before the LP, one had to attend a concert to hear Mahler. Of course, there were occasional performances broadcast by radio, but not as a marketing tool for the recording industry.

Then, when the CD came out, a virtual Mahler explosion followed. And the dust hasn't settled yet. Finally, a complete Mahler symphony could be heard at a sitting. With so many performances available, it was but a brief time before publications appeared, probing and explaining both the composer and his music.

At least, those are my not-very-deep thoughts.

     . & '

Offline Mountaine

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Re: Mahler "revival" in the 60s
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2009, 03:52:22 PM »
Thank you, Jot!  I just read Thomas' short essay for the first time, at your recommendation, and found it fascinating.  (It's online, easily found.)  This helps - it's a great example of people discovering their own "program" as they listen to Mahler. 

Does anyone else have comments or quotes for me, either on the Mahler boom in the 60s, or the emotional journey of M4 in particular?  And where can I find Bernstein's views?  I've looked at his book "Infinite Variety of Music", and also the transcripts of his Young People's Concerts, but haven't found anything substantial on Mahler.  Perhaps someone can help make my research easier with a few specific citations...?

Offline barry guerrero

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Re: Mahler "revival" in the 60s
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2009, 04:21:44 PM »
I don't mean to be a spoilsport, but I think that linking a Mahler revival to the happenings of the '60s is sort of the wrong way to look at things. Mahler's music should have been standard fare (fair?) much earlier, but was delayed from being so for two reasons: the great global catastrophes of the '30s and '40s, and the fact that his music is extremely difficult to perform for those who aren't already familiar with it. In a sense, the world hadn't fully rebounded from the damages of global economic depression and war until 1960 or so. Of course, you can add to that mix, the narrative of the holocaust, and the plight of the world's Jews in general. It is, of course, a happy coincidence that Mahler's music had its upswing during the time of the civil rights movement, along with the anti Vietnam War protests as well. Still, L. Bernstein was happy to make the obvious links between Mahler's upswing, and the happenings of the '60s. I'm not sure that many others were so willing to go down that path. His music had already become somewhat popular in Europe in the 1920s. Shostakovich claimed to have known ALL of Mahler's major works.

Barry Guerrero

Offline stillivor

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Re: Mahler "revival" in the 60s
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2009, 08:52:07 PM »
The introduction of the LP was certainly a major Mahlerian opportunity. Also, there were performances of Mahler from his day on in various countries, but rather few and far bertween.

The obvious answer as to why the 60s is that 1960 was the centenary year of his birth, and '61 the 50th of his death. That double-whammy was a prompting to performances.

There was also a loosening-up of attitudes in the early 60s. After all, before then, one of Britain's chief critics, Eric Blom, The Times chief critic had recently said,"We don't want Mahler's sort here." And in the 60s, a new generation of critics and of performers began to apear, with more enthusiasm.

Klemperer,Walter,Rosbaud,Mitropoulos,Horenstein,Boult and Scherchen from the old guard were finally given the opportunity, while among the next generation, Bernstein, Leinsdorf, Abravanel, Haitink and Kubelik, and shortly, Barbirolli, were all interested, and the audience was there. among critics, Deryck Cooks, Donald Mitchell, Hans Redlich,William mann and Harold Truscott were pro.

I'm still intrigued th't that Horenstein Albert Hall performance of the 8th in '59 drew a full house to a large hall. Where had the audience sprung from?

As Barry says, the world had to recover from WW2, and The Bomb helped produce an Age of Anxiety, for which Mahler's music seemed on the money.

Once I discovered G.M., around '62 and concerts around '64, I went to as many performances in London as I could manage.

There is much documentation of the growth of performances in the excellent The Mahler Companion, ed. Donald Mitchell. Tho' in it, Mitchell wants to emphasise that in England performances appeared throughout in the 20th century, and th't there was no sudden explosion at the beginning of the 60s. It's certainly easy not to know of the performances up to '59 apart from the recorded ones.


   Ivor4

Offline John Kim

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Re: Mahler "revival" in the 60s
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2009, 09:14:08 PM »
There will be another round of Mahler boom as we get near the year 2010 and 2011!! ;D :D.

John,

Offline barry guerrero

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Re: Mahler "revival" in the 60s
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2009, 11:02:44 PM »
Yeah, and I'm afraid that Beethoven and Tchaikovsky fans are going to hate us even further.

Offline waderice

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Re: Mahler "revival" in the 60s
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2009, 01:12:06 AM »
I would have answered the original inquiry earlier, but I wasn't sure where to start.  And I do know that Bernstein wasn't the primary impetus for Mahler's input coming into the concert mainstream.  He simply put the Mahler phenomenon into higher gear, as the timing of political, social, and world events was good for it.  One of Bernstein's Young People's Concerts dedicated solely to Mahler (the one of February 7, 1960), helped to acquaint a nationwide television audience to this then-obscure composer, in addition to his increased programming of Mahler in the NYPO's concerts of the 'sixties.  If you have access to the multi-DVD set of the Young People's Concerts, take a look at that one particular one and you'll see what I mean.

I too, am of the opinion that historical events (primarily the holocaust and rampant anti-semitism leading up to it) delayed the arrival of Mahler into regular concert repertory.  And also, unfamiliarity with his works and their difficulty to perform contributed to the neglect as well as the historical stigma of his ethnic origin.

Though I don't have the DVD set of Bernstein's Harvard lectures from 1973, I see that there is one dedicated to a discussion of M9.  That might also be another source to draw from.

Offline TomR

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Re: Mahler "revival" in the 60s
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2009, 05:55:46 AM »
There are a couple of conductors that we mustn't forget who carried the baton before the Mahler explosion of the 60's and 70's. One was Stokowski, who gave the American premieresof the 8th and Das Lied von der Erde in 1916, and who continued to conduct Mahler over the years. Another is Mengelberg, who led a Mahler festival (conducting all of the symphonies, something that Walter didn't do) in the 20's.  There is not much doubt that the "events" of the 30's and 40's tended to slow down adoption of Mahler's music - Furtwangler conducted Mahler  symphonies several times in the 20's, but of course wouldn't touch the music after the Nazi's took power. As an aside, I have recordings of Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen with Fischer-Dieskau conducted by Furtwangler and Kubelik, and IMHO Kubelik's conducting is far more idiomatic - Furtwangler seems to approach it as another work by Wagner. Worth hearing, though. There were also the pioneer recordings of Adler to be considered. All in all, the works of Mahler were no stranger to the concert hall before Lennie.

Offline stillivor

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Re: Mahler "revival" in the 60s
« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2009, 07:37:52 PM »
Btw - 20s, 30s, 40s.

They are just plurals and no more need apostrophes than books, records, apostrophes do.


:-)


   Ivor

Offline Karafan

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Re: Mahler "revival" in the 60s
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2009, 04:48:15 PM »
You beat me to it, Ivor!  I have the misused apostrophe hangup too  :o

Offline chris

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Re: Mahler "revival" in the 60s
« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2009, 05:58:59 PM »
You beat me to it, Ivor!  I have the misused apostrophe hangup too  :o

Come on, its not that big of a deal.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2009, 01:30:55 PM by chris »

Offline stillivor

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Re: Mahler "revival" in the 60s
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2009, 04:45:21 PM »
Agreed.   I'm  8)



   Ivor

 

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