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Date:         Tue, 16 Jan 2001 22:39:00 -0500
Reply-To:     Gustav Mahler & related Late Romantic Composers List
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Sender:       Gustav Mahler & related Late Romantic Composers List
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From:         Mitch Friedfeld <[log in to unmask]>
Subject:      Make You Want To Read?
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"Probably the most celebrated fact about Mahler's Kindertotenlieder is that these songs expressing a parent's grief for his dead children were embarked upon in 1901 by a man who not only had no children of his own, but had also shown no overt intention to marry, and had not yet met the woman whom he subsequently did marry -- a man who one might expect therefore to have no idea what it meant to mourn the deaths of children. The problem is compounded by the further paradox that when, having laid the songs aside temporarily, Mahler composed two further settings at Maiernigg in the summer of 1904, he had meanwhile married, had two healthy children of his own, and seemed furthermore to be enjoying a highly successful and happy period in his life, in both the personal and the professional sense. What attracted him to this gloomy and introverted subject-matter? And what gave him the power to give such surpassing expression to a parent's bereavement which he had never himself experienced?" That is the first paragraph of "Light in Battle with Darkness: Mahler's Kindertotenlieder," by Peter Russell (1991, Peter Lang). I am enjoying the heck out of this thin book (only 115 pages of text, but diamond print). I can't resist one more quotation, from the analysis of Nun will die Sonn': "Much has been written about the opening of the song, in which solo oboe and solo horn play in bleak plaintive counterpoint, the oboe's melody characterized by its falling diminished fifths: this introduction, which lacks any of the conventional opening gestures, announces the linear, contrapuntal style of the cycle as a whole. [musical example] It also sets the tone of introspective lament with which the cycle opens, ushering us into a world of interior gloom. Thus the first vocal line, describing the *rising* of the sun, is a *descending* line, its slowness reflecting the mood of listless grief of a father for whom this daybreak has brought tragedy. The contrapuntal figures give way now to lamenting appoggiaturas on bassoon and horn, which have the effect of repeated sighs. The two words signifying light, *Sonn'* and *hell,* are given particular emphasis by their position and length [musical example]. When the oboe now echoes the voice in diminution, its resumption of the momentum of the initial oboe phrase points up all the more the voice's listless slowing of that momentum. But the second vocal line ushers in a change of timbre, the woodwind being replaced by muted lower strings and a rhythmic quaver figure on the harp. The voice now sings of its misfortune to a *rising* line, but rising by semitones, as if with great effort -- and having reached B flat at bar 13, falls back again to the tonic in bar 15. Meanwhile at bar 14 occurs an expansive figure on the word *Nacht* -- giving that word a special emphasis as a symbol in contrast to the previously stressed symbols of light, *Sonn'* and *hell*." Isn't that great? The book is full of insights like this. I'm not done with it (reading only when I can concentrate on the book alone, for a change not when other things are going on), but I'm already recommending it wholeheartedly to anybody interested in the KTL. Lots of insights into the Rueckert songs (Russell categorizes the poem Ich bin der Welt as little better than doggerell before Mahler got his hands on it), Rueckert himself, and, of course, Mahler. The frontispiece has two pictures: not GM, not Rueckert, but Rueckert's two children, Ernst and Louise. To call this poignant is to commit the understatement of the year. Mitch Friedfeld (no commercial interest) ---------------------------------------------- To unsubscribe, mail [log in to unmask] with: unsubscribe mahler-list -- Colorado Mahlerfest homepage: http://www.mahlerfest.org


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