Mahler Misused

My other half can testify to the fact that reading Norman Lebrecht’s new book on Mahler, “Why Mahler?,” was almost physically painful. I began by covering its pages with comments and yellow highlights. And then I gave up. It was a goldmine of howlers. I review it in more temperate fashion at The New Republic’s The Book.

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One response to “Mahler Misused

  1. peter bennett

    Philip, I came across your review of Norman Lebrecht’s book, which I haven’t read, whilst doing some research for a presentation I am giving in a few weeks time on Alma. It will be illustrated by musical excepts both of her own compositions and of those of her friends, husband and lovers. I was at the point where I was wanting to point out the special significance of the Karlskirche to Gustav – where he was married and where he converted to Christianity, when I stumbled across this reference to some sort of codified apparition that Lebrecht seems to think that Gustav had. For me, like you, it seems pretty obvious that he converted for purely professional reasons – well in advance of getting the directorship of the Vienna Opera but with his self-assurance why wouldn’t he have been forward planning. Lebrecht heads up discussions on BBC’s radio 3 about the state of the arts and I guess he loves a bit of controversy. For me Mahler is something of a god but then so is Floyd Patterson and Nat King Cole, all for different reasons. I love the way he has movedmusical tonal romanticism toward breaking point, I love the way he spiritualises death, I think Der Abschied is the most evocative treatment of the journey towards death I have encountered and know instinctively that it comes from his heart, his soul, and not his intellect.

    Thankyou for your review – much appreciated.

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