Daniel Goode

Composer & Performer

Tag: Wagner

Marvin Taylor comments on my Mahler post

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,

Daniel to Marvin, re: Mahler

This is great. I’ll have to defer to you, I’ve never read Oper u.Drama. I thought the T.Thomas film really was pretty much a part of the over-Romanticized thing. I’m not really interested in the idea of the end of those movements (9, 10, Das Lied) AS a death trip. Yes, ending ending ending. OK, already! got it.  In performance (I have to write this down at some point), the actual effect in real time, actual halls, is to make a subtle, long segue between the hyper-mood of his material, and the everyday world with coughs and squeaks and traffic, letting you down slowly, fading out on you, putting you on your feet going out with the memory of what was the musical high points for  you. It’s very vivid and unavoidable at any performance. What he meant is almost superfluous, though why not add it in, if we knew it. Ironically it was those three works that were premiered posthumously, so any composer/audience colloquy couldn’t happen. This does spook me: the posthumous performance of his masterpieces with no commentary from him possible.

The Mahler Second is part of the theatricallizing of his inner/outer world, so yes, simplistic, but we forgive him (intentional fallacy again) because he’s recovering child-hood memory, so simple=simple. I honor Bernstein’s performances, and glad he decided to internalize Mahler. I think the 9th with Koncertgebow and Bernstein was one of the films I saw in the Mahler and Film series last season. Or was it another symphony? Or was it Claudio Arrau? Bernstein did the 4th, yes, that was it. There was a German television film of Kindertotenlieder with Fischer-Dieskau that was overwhelming partly because the simple, stark, black and white staging of it was like German wood-cut. Our PBS type things need to hang their hat on something simple, so the conductor’s get short-circuited. Bernstein was a serious thinker in a way, just not in these contexts.

Yes, I think contemporary discussions, of the program note variety, just continue ad nauseum the 19th Century. I don’t have a theoretical take because M’s music is still a visceral agent in my life. I like Adorno’s book on Mahler. I’ve turned it into a palimpsest. You’ll get it some day for the Fales!! Yes, to a blog entry. I should read Op. u. Dr. I might need a crib. Hope I recognize where he departed from himself as you mention.

Thanks for putting your thoughts down on this. For me., it’s a perpetual itch, I keep on scratching at, but it never calms down.