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Recommended: Mahler, Symphony #4, Tilson Thomas, San Francisco Symphony, Laura Claycomb, soprano. SACD and CD. Marvelous modern sound.


Recommended: Mahler, Symphony #4, Horenstein, London Philharmonic, Margaret Price, soprano, CD. A classic.


Mahler: Symphony #4

Here is a reminiscence by Mahler's much younger friend, Bruno Walter. "His Fourth Symphony, begun in the summer of 1899, was completed in 1900. In December 1901 it was performed in Munich and fiercely attacked.... The first Vienna performance, in 1902, I recall vividly; the explosion of contrary opinions was so violent that fisticuffs ensued between opponents and enthusiasts."

Bruno Walter, Gustav Mahler, pages 53-54 (Schocken Books, New York, 1974).

What, exactly, does maestro Walter mean by "fiercely attacked" in Munich? Here's a contemporary account.

"It would be impossible to convey the sensation of madness (there's no other word for it) that such a symphony can arouse! ... the way in which it constantly appealed to the lowest instincts of the crowd and so expertly caressed and aroused the sensuality latent in each one of us, inciting it to indulge itself; it was the breeze of contagious madness that made one shriek with laughter; the constant overloading and perversion of an alluring melody with every possible large or small sound effect; the way it swung from the sublime to the ridiculous, in an apparent effort to please everyone from the aristocrat down to the peasant; the way in which its Jewish and Nietzchean spirit defied our Christian spirit with its sacrilegious buffoonery and the fact that it exasperated our loyalty to the past by crushing all our artistic principles to a pulp.

"We booed our heads off, as they boo only in Paris or Italy!"

Recollections by William Ritter, recounted by Henry-Louis de La Grange in Gustav Mahler, Vienna: The Years of Challenge, pages 396 and 398 (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1994).

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