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.