A reflection on the death of Gustav Mahler, 100 years ago
One hundred years ago today -- May 18, 1911-- Gustav Mahler died. He was only 50.
Back in July, the 150th anniversary of his birth, I went on and on about how much this man and his music has influenced my own life, so I'll spare you that. I just wanted to acknowledge the anniversary in an aural and visual musical way.
The visual is a photo of Mahler's grave at the Grinzing Cemetery in Vienna.
I got there once, a long time ago in the early stages of my Mahler mania, on a very cold, gray January day. The sight of the large, unadorned stone left an indelible impression.
This picture (by Chris Lee) comes courtesy of the New York Philharmonic, which is currently on tour with music director Alan Gilbert. In between performances (including an all-Mahler program) in Vienna earlier this week, musicians and patrons of the orchestra stopped by the cemetery to lay a wreath. Mahler was music director of the Philharmonic at the time of his death.
Choosing music to mark this day was tough. I finally settled on ...
the "Urlicht" ("Primal Light") movement from the "Resurrection" Symphony, in a poignant performance with the divine Janet Baker and the London Symphony, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, Mahler's most illustrious successor at the helm of the New York Philharmonic.
I think these five minutes easily reveal the soul of Mahler and the extraordinary, magnetic pull of his music. Here's the text:
O red rose! Man lies in greatest need. Man lies in greatest pain. I would rather be in heaven. I came I upon a broad path where an angel came and wanted to turn me back. But I would not be turned away!.I am from God and want to return to God. The dear God will grant me a little light, will light my way to that eternal, blissful life.