Marvin Taylor comments on my Mahler post

by danielgoode

On Oct 13, 2011, at 4:03 PM, Marvin J Taylor wrote:

For the blog entries: What do you think about this: Are the well-intentioned attempts to see these things in Mahler’s works just a continuation of the very problematic critical debates between early Wagner–of Judenthum in der Musik–Hanslinck, and Brahms of the 19th c.? Did Bernstein get duped by falling into this line of critical thought just as Hanslick and Brahms missed the shift in Wagner’s thinking in the later works after he gave up on the ideas put forth in Oper und Drama? (Or, conversely, did Bernstein so strongly believe in the cult of the artist that Wagner promoted–and the Nietzsche so rightfully despised–that he over Romanticized everything about Mahler?)

On the other hand, as a student of lit., I’ve never much worried about what authors (of any kind) say about their work. The Intentional Fallacy rears its Fafner-like head. Instead, I tend to see these kinds of engagements as Heidegger did: that is, as dialogues with the past, even if it was only two weeks ago. It’s even more important to located the discussion in the present the further back you go in time with the referent.

Of course, Mahler often does use rather simplistic “programmatic” tricks in the music. I’m thinking, for example, of the off-stage horns of the Apocalypse at the end of Sym. no. 2. This probably enables people to see programmatic moments where they might or might not exist, such as at the end of the 9th.

Then, of course, there is the matter of the performances. Regardless of what Bernstein thought about the work, his conducting of the pieces is so stellar that I’d almost rather not know his ideas. This is esp. true given the live performances with the Koncertgebow. Those recordings are devastating to me on a purely musical level.

How’s that for opening up a can of worms?

All best,