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November 20, 2011

On the 100th anniversary of Mahler's 'Das Lied von der Erde'

One hundred years ago today -- Nov. 20, 1911 -- Bruno Walter conducted the premier of Gustav Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" in Vienna. It was, of course, a posthumous premiere; the composer had died, much too young at 50, a few months earlier.

If this was the only work of Mahler's we had, that would still be enough to guarantee him lasting fame. With his choice of ancient Chinese poems (and a few of his own lines), Mahler created a deep reflection on nature and what it means to be a part of it, to live and love, to fear, to question, to die.

I would love to have been at the premiere, to see and feel how the audience responded, whether it touched them at all or merely perplexed them.

To this day, I think ...

some listeners, even fans of Mahler symphonies, have trouble getting "Das Lied." It took me a while, I admit, to warm up to it back in the early days of my Mahler fixation, but I found myself coming back to it time and again, riveted by the coloring and atmosphere, affected especially by the long concluding movement -- surely some of the most profound music ever created.

To mark today's centennial, I thought the fourth movement would make a good choice for an audio/visual clip. I know it's autumn now, but this burst of spring imagery still seems right -- maidens gathering blossoms, watching handsome young men rushing past on their horses (Mahler conjures up that jaunty image so perfectly).

Here's the marvelous Christa Ludwig with Leonard Bernstein conducting:

Posted by Tim Smith at 2:58 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Clef Notes
        

Comments

Das Lied is my favorite Mahler. I never tire of listening to the last movement by Ludwig/Klemperer.

I could never tire of that recording, either. Sublime. TIM

Hey check out (and like) an interesting take on composer Mahler's Fourth Symphony and the many different renditions interpreted by other musicians written by one of the editors of Culture Catch Mr. Holtje at: http://culturecatch.com/music/mahler-fourth-symphony

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at baltimoresun.com/artsmash. This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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