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Mahler: Symphony #5

Ludwig Karpath, a Viennese music critic, attended incognito a private "read-through" of Gustav Mahler's Fifth Symphony by the Vienna Philharmonic prior to the first performance in Cologne.He described the experience in a letter to a friend:

"Think what I did today: I furtively slipped into the Musikvereinsaal to hear the Fifth. I was almost caught, because the orchestra was seated near the entrance to the hall, which was something I hadn't known about. I therefore had to revise all my original plans and try to get to the organ without being seen, something I luckily managed to do.... The symphony lasted exactly an hour and a half. That is the actual playing time, without any pauses. It is clear; without any artifice. Of course that applies only to modern ears. But even the 'older ones' will hardly be able to complain of extravagances. I haven't the time at the moment to go into detail, I'd like to say only one thing: in the symphony there is an Adagio, in F major (I don't think I'm mistaken about the key) for strings only, and it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard in my life. It's not only the beauty of the sound that captivates, but more the tender intimacy of a great melody that really has no end and that simply overwhelms you. So full of sweetness, exaltation and nostalgia that tears poured from my eyes. I've no reason to be ashamed of them, especially as no one saw them."

This is a letter from Gustav Mahler to his wife Alma after the first rehearsal of the Fifth in Cologne.

"And the audience - what are they to make of this chaos out of which new worlds are forever being created, only to crumble in ruin a moment later? What are they to say to this primeval music; to this foaming, roaring, raging sea of sound; to this burst of dancing stars; to these breath-taking, iridescent, and flashing waves? ... I'm going for a walk along the Rhine, the only Cologner who will quietly go his way after the premiere without calling me a monster."

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