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Mahler: Symphony #3

We love acidic comments on symphonies by our favorite composers. This is the best one we've seen on Gustav Mahler's Third Symphony. A nameless critic remarked as he walked out of a performance in Vienna: "For something like that the man deserves a couple of years in prison."

Jonathan Carr records that remark on page 112 of his excellent book Mahler (The Overlook Press, New York, 1998).

Mahler himself mocked the critics in a letter to Bruno Walter on July 2, 1896, from Mahler's mountain retreat at Steinbach-am-Attersee:

"My sisters may have told you that I have not been completely idle. Indeed, I would hope that the entire Third will soon be happily concluded. I am already at the orchestra score, as the first sketch is now quite clear. I think the gentlemen of the critical fraternity, be they assigned or self-appointed, once again will suffer from attacks of dizziness. But those who enjoy the pleasant strolls I offer will find them fun. The whole thing is, of course, tainted by my deplorable sense of humor and seeks opportunities to exercise my 'predilection for the most brutal noises.' In many passages my musicians play without the slightest regard for each other, and my chaotic and bestial nature 'reveals itself in all its vile nakedness.' It is well known that I cannot do without trivialities, but this time all permissible bounds have been passed, and 'one frequently feels he has landed in a tavern or a pigsty.' So come soon, forewarned and fore-armed! And if your taste has been purified in Berlin, prepare to have it thoroughly corrupted."

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