A Few of My Favorite Things
While Beth and I were in Mozambique getting ready for the Manda Wilderness Choir Festival I had some time to sit and reflect on our trip and the exciting events about to unfold. We were staying in a lovely open air cabin and just getting used to being on the other side of the world! The first morning I heard a voice calling from the path back to the lodge. When I looked out- there was this young lady with a tray filled with COFFEE! It made me think of the daily habit of my favorite composer, Gustav Mahler. He would walk to his writing studio in the woods where his breakfast would be waiting. Not too shabby, huh? Well, speaking of Mahler…
Gustav Mahler’s 9th Symphony
My favorite musical piece is Gustav Mahler’s 9th Symphony. I love this piece because it expresses a full range of emotions and textures like no other piece of music I know and it speaks to a deep angst which was raging in the later years of his life.
The death of his first daughter left Mahler devastated, and that same year he was diagnosed with a heart disease (infective endocarditis). His strong opinions in artistic matters had created enemies and he was also increasingly subject to attacks in anti-Semitic portions of the press.
To add to his grief, he discovered that his wife Alma had been having an affair, which she vowed to end but continued surreptitiously. Mahler reportedly wrote and dedicated his 8thSymphony to her, hoping to win her heart but it was too late.
In my opinion (and based on my appreciation of his earlier works) Mahler’s 9th Symphony takes themes from previous symphonies and literally shreds the melodies and harmonies into disjointed pieces. One may hear strains from his more melodic works, like the 2nd symphony, but then these notes are twisted into fragments and shadows and cast into the air as if to say:
Here is a motif you might recognize, yet here, it is somehow twisted and destroyed. This symphony is a picture of my life and most intimate thoughts, so, like my heart- it is ruined.
Despite his best efforts to pronounce hopelessness upon this work and his life it is my opinion that it is his most amazing composition.
Symphony No. 9 was his last completed work. In February 1911, during a long and demanding concert season in New York, Mahler fell seriously ill with a streptococcal blood infection, and conducted his last concert in a fever. His body did not respond to the brand new serum, which had been recently developed, and he died from his infection on May 18, 1911 at the age of 50, leaving his Symphony No. 10 unfinished.
Here is a picture of Mahler’s 2nd writing studio. He had daily routine of walking to this cottage to work on his compositions.