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Why Mahler?: How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed Our Worldby Norman Lebrecht
Synopses & Reviews
Although Gustav Mahler was a famous conductor in Vienna and New York, the music that he wrote was condemned during his lifetime and for many years after his death in 1911. “Pages of dreary emptiness,” sniffed a leading American conductor. Yet today, almost one hundred years later, Mahler has displaced Beethoven as a box-office draw and exerts a unique influence on both popular music and film scores.
Mahler’s coming-of-age began with such 1960s phenomena as Leonard Bernstein’s boxed set of his symphonies and Luchino Visconti’s film Death in Venice, which used Mahler’s music in its sound track. But that was just the first in a series of waves that established Mahler not just as a great composer but also as an oracle with a personal message for every listener. There are now almost two thousand recordings of his music, which has become an irresistible launchpad for young maestros such as Gustavo Dudamel.
Why Mahler? Why does his music affect us in the way it does?
Norman Lebrecht, one of the world’s most widely read cultural commentators, has been wrestling obsessively with Mahler for half his life. Pacing out his every footstep from birthplace to grave, scrutinizing his manuscripts, talking to those who knew him, Lebrecht constructs a compelling new portrait of Mahler as a man who lived determinedly outside his own times. Mahler was—along with Picasso, Einstein, Freud, Kafka, and Joyce—a maker of our modern world.
“Mahler dealt with issues I could recognize,” writes Lebrecht, “with racism, workplace chaos, social conflict, relationship breakdown, alienation, depression, and the limitations of medical knowledge.” Why Mahler? is a book that shows how music can change our lives.
Norman Lebrecht has written several best-selling works of nonfiction, including The Maestro Myth and Who Killed Classical Music? He is also the award-winning
Traces how the misunderstood symphonies of the turn-of-the-century composer rose to levels of ardent appreciation decades after his death, offering insight into the contributions of Leonard Bernstein in raising awareness of Mahler's achievements and the reasons behind his modern popularity. 50,000 first printing.
Norman Lebrecht--noted music critic, novelist, and author of the classic Mahler Remembered--explains why Gustav Mahler, relatively obscure in his own time, has become the most popular symphonist of ours.
Although he was well regarded as a conductor, when Gustav Mahler died in 1911 his compositions were considered incomprehensible and unlistenable. In the 1960s, with Leonard Bernstein's passionate advocacy, Mahler's star began to rise. And in 2009, superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel chose a Mahler symphony for his first concert with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Mahler had famously remarked that his time will come. Why Mahler? explores how we have come to find ourselves in Mahler's time.
Norman Lebrecht approaches the question from an unusual and personal angle, discussing how the composer's music has affected his own life as well as the cultural life of the twentieth century. He travels to Mahler's birth- and resting places; speaks with surviving members of his family; and delves into why, for many fans, Mahler is not just a composer but a religion, and why, even for less-ardent listeners, Mahler's popularity has eclipsed that of Haydn or Beethoven.
Equal parts biography, memoir, and appreciation, this is a book that will allow us a fuller understanding than we have ever had of Gustav Mahler and of his abiding place in our musical sensibilities.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
Desperately seeking Mahler — Why Mahler? : some frequently asked questions — Who is Mahler? : the life and times. Living in a nowhere land (1860-1875) ; City of dreams (1875-1887) ; A symphony like the world (1887-1891) ; Rise again (1891-1894) ; What love tells me (1895-1897) ; A taste of power (1897-1900) ; The most beautiful girl in Vienna (1901) ; Small interludes of happiness (1902-1906) ; Three hammerblows (1907) ; Discovering America (1907-1910) ; "To live for you, to die for you" (1910-1911) ; After Mahler (1911-2010) — Whose Mahler? : a question of interpretation — How to Mahler : finding the key to a private space.
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