Mahler 4

This morning I decided to sit through a performance of Mahler's 4th symphony on youtube... in the hopes of expanding my horizons with Mahler and all that, y'know, since in the past I've really only heard his 1st symphony in full, and only snippets of the others.

Unfortunately, I have to confess my conclusion is still the same as before: his music just doesn't do it for me.  I don't deny his genius at the craft, and certainly he's an excellent orchestrator -- probably far beyond what I could ever hope to achieve, but I just have a hard time getting "into" his music the same way I get into, say, Sibelius' symphonies, or Beethoven, or Shostakovich, for that matter.  I had a hard time following his musical structures; it seems like just one idea strung after another, meandering, without an obvious direction (that is, unless I read the program notes / circumstantial information).

I found the 1st mvmt of the 4th somewhat frilly, light, and seems to me to be just "random" flittering around, without much of a satisfying dramatic structure.  The middle movements didn't win me over either; the slow movement seemed excessively drawn-out in its dark moods.  Also, I admit I'm biased against choral works, so the finale didn't really appeal to me that much either.  It's probably just my personal bias, but I can only tolerate a soprano's voice for so long before it gets tiring on the ears.  And I suppose not understanding German didn't help with appreciating the lyrics either.

So even though Mahler seems to be far more popular, this crude bumpkin over here will continue to prefer his Sibelius and Bruckner symphonies over Mahler.  Well, OK, to be fair, maybe I'll just pick another Mahler symphony randomly and listen to it in its entirety later today... from what snippets I've heard in the past, though, I'm not expecting my opinion to change.

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  • Hi Bob, thanks for your comment.  I don't feel bad about disliking Mahler's music at all.  Sometimes I don't even like some of Beethoven's work, even though generally speaking he is one of my favorite composers.  As you said, music is emotional and subjective, so opinions are bound to differ, not just from composer to composer, but often from piece to piece. Maybe even between passages in the same piece.

  • I think it quite normal not to like certain "great composers" even if you know their great. To make you feel better History has shown that great composers themselves didn't always like each others music. Tchaikovsky. didn't like Brahms.Stravinsky  didn't like anyone doing anything different from him. Schoenberg considered alban Berg a cheat. and the list goes on . As we like music emotionally more then intellectually it make sense we will favor certain sounds weather we can intellectually justify them or not . I think that is just the way it is Bob

  • I'll have a listen.  

    I am listening.  So far, it seems pretty standard, if a bit more dissonant than the earlier works of the Victorian period that I know, specifically Mendelssohn.  Mahler seems to be interested in half step and whole step little trills and turns in this part.  And now, we're into a section where he's doing more dissonant stuff, which is what I expected from composition around the time of Debussy and Wagner.  Either way, it seems very disconnected from itself.  Lots of motifs that I don't get or are self contained.  Maybe I'll get it latter when I listen again.  I'm pretty used to works that are very self referential, at the very least within the movement.  Beethoven does it a lot.  Maybe it is because I'm in a decent mood, but I like it.  It sounds a lot like other things, which is both good and bad, but I didn't really expect it to be completely unique to my ears.  This probably would have lent to popularity in his time.  

    Oh, and yes, Mahler was a Jew converted to Christianity to get a job.  Mendelssohn did it as well, so I can imagine it was common practice in the era because music was kind of a religious thing, and the dominant religion was Catholicism in Austria.  

    Honestly, I can't say anything, as this is the kind of thing I enjoy listening to, I just never do because it is longer, and I tend to have bad experiences with longer stuff that I don't like.  I dislike sitting through music that is bad, but I do anyways to see if it gets good, often multiple times.  

    Finally, I do not know anything about the subject, so I'll agree that it seems kind of strewn about.  But, I can say I'm quite okay with that.  I feel like he's referencing a lot of music though, I can pick out some parts that are direct copy and pastes of music I've heard with one or two notes changed, although I obviously can't prove that they are and don't feel like spending the effort.  Probably something from Mozart.  

    Currently, my judgement is that it is decent, but nothing earth shattering, like when I first listened to the Beatles.  I like it, and will listen again.  I swear, it is very much on the tip of my tongue what this sounds like.  At least, the less dissonant parts.  

    I will admit, the recording I am using is is very high quality, although there is a buzzing in the background, probably because of the equipment.  I am not very well versed in recording equipment.  

    Oh yeah, I apologize for the long post that is kind of a stream of consciousness type thing.  I'm trying new things in writing, and also a new way to listen and understand the music I'm listening to.  I'm about halfway through at this point.  

    If I find the thing I'm thinking of, I will post it.  

    After this, I'll listen to something else that I am absolutely certain I'd like, and then Symphony 6.  I found something I recognize definitely as Beethoven.  It was two notes, but eh, it kind of threw me off because the instrumentation was the same or similar enough for me to notice.  Again, the references in music I pick up on can often be described as flukes, but still, it is my interpretation.  

    I'm probably not the best person to listen to, I just listen to music literally every day for at least an hour, sometimes while I work, but usually it is dedicated listening.  I have a high school education in music, including theory.  Obviously, I'm here, so I compose.  

    The singing is here.  Pretty typical style soprano.  Not Bach style though that I'm more accustomed to, this is more Wagner, at least I think, I don't know much of his stuff.  It is on the list of stuff I'll listen to.  I plan on seeing the Ring trilogy one day.  

    And then the clapping.  

    Good music, it lost me a little bit, but hey, that's okay.  I will listen to it.  

    I really tend to overwrite on these things.  

    I will end with this, expanding your knowledge of music is good.  I like doing it as well, and thus I'm here.  

    I am going, and do not have time to proofread this.  

  • If memory serves me correctly, Mahler was born a Jew, converted to Christianity just to get a job position, and now in his symphony 4 he is trying to describe The Marriage Supper of the Lamb in which he has absolutely no clue about. I can tell why you don't connect with it, because Mahler unfortunately probably could not even connect with the subject he was trying to describe musically. When you describe the glory of pure good triumphs evil as a children's tea party, one is destined to fail. String players and conductors tend to favor this symphony more because of idiomatic writing verses actual musical impression thus giving the symphony an illusion of success and genius.
  • It's great that you are trying to expand your listening habits HS. I try and do it all the time, something new as often as possible.

    Keep those ears open.

  • On your advice I listened to Mahler 6 today.  Unfortunately, it didn't change my impression of Mahler.  It's very masterfully-crafted music, one has to admit, but somehow it just doesn't "click" for me.

    I thought about it afterwards, and perhaps I might explain my feeling this way: with symphonies like Sibelius' or Bruckner's, or even Shostakovich, the end of the symphony brings closure, and satisfaction on some level (and this even with some of Shostakovich's most nihilistic symphonies).  With Mahler, the end of the symphony brings exhaustion (and this even with the most optimistic of his symphonies that I've heard).  Your ears (and stamina :-P) are just stretched to the max, and finally you arrive at the end, exhausted, and ready to crash. Even Bruckner's long symphonies, at the end, bring closure, but not exhaustion.  I suppose this is all very subjective and not really meaningful to anyone besides myself, but anyway, this is my take on why I just can't get "into" Mahler's music. :-D

  • I'm partial to numbers 2,6,8 and 9. Not too familiar with 4 but with you on Bruckner, Shostakovitch and Sibelius ( the composer)....
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