Lost to the world, but no to the music

Austria was always a small country. But in the long ago days of the 19th century, Austria was not very small or too small to present the world again and again with outstanding persons and personalities- such as Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg, Alexander Zemlinsky and their contemporaries. „Lost to the world“ is a often quoted, but still cryptically and laconic summary of Gustav Mahler on himself and his work. Of course, we can loose keys or a book and sometimes we loose much more important things than those, but how can a person be „lost to the world?“ Gustav Mahler as it seems to me, was not lost to a Romantic ideal, but may be without being clearly noticed by his family and friends, he who struggled his whole life to enter in the „world turmoil“ of the Viennese society, which was never too small to exclude Jews, became tired and remained a stranger. Born as a son of a Bohemian family, struggling with economic issues as well as with a society, which was divided and unstable, Mahler himself unites all possible struggles of European ( cultural ) life on the eve of its great catastrophe. Mahler was deeply connected with Sigmund Freud, who became his therapist to deal with his traumatic childhood memories of his father beating his mother, Mahler remained a stranger as the director of the Vienna Court Opera, was forced to convert to Catholicism and remained a life-long traveler, who nearly visited every European capital. Some aspects of a peculiar life appear in his symphonies, we can listen to the military music played in his hometown Iglau alongside simple tunes of songs, as well as finding church-bells ringing the Third Symphony and overall an existing modernity within all his works. Gustav Mahler was well connected to another great Viennese musician, named Arnold Schönberg.His works took centre- stage at the concerts, he organized at the evenings of the Viennese Society for Private Musical Performances, which followed the aim not only to promote ’new ‚ music but to engage a broader understanding of modern musical conceptualization. And Schönberg himself who took the initiative with his Six Orchestral Songs where he combined poetry and music, using texts from Petrarca and Poems from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. In this pieces we may already discover his tendencies towards dissolution, which will later appear in Pierrot Lunaire, op. 21, released in 1912. In the very same year 1912, Gustav Mahler’s farewell work the great Ninth appeared, conducted by another great Austrian, Bruno Walter , again shows the slowly sinking world of ‚Old Europe‘, which Gustav Mahler had no to experience in opposite to Arnold Schönberg, who was a witness of the destruction and never returned to the small country of Austria, which was not too small to present the world again and again with outstanding persons and personalities.

Arnold Schönberg Six Orchestral Works played by the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra under Klaus von Dohnányi.

The movie Mahler on the couch ( 2010 )reflects the relation between Sigmund Freund and Gustav Mahler. Gavin Plumley goes on a search for Mahler here.

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