A Conversation for The Music of Mahler
Sepulveda Started conversation Aug 26, 2001
A great entry,both informative and interesting,but I must say that I've often felt that Mahler is somewhat overrated. The First,Fourth and Fifth symphonies are marvellous,but the rest always strike me as lacking in discipline.
Take the 'Resurrection' symphony [no.2] for example. This features some wonderful writing,particularly the last movement,but in my opinion it suffers from being repetitive and overly long. Not that there is anything wrong with long symphonies, it's just that Mahler always seems to be trying too hard to produce a 'monumental' piece of art.
The symphonies also reflect the fact that Mahler seemed to revel in his role as composer/conductor/suffering person. He appears to have almost enjoyed being miserable.
As to Mahler being the father of 12 tone music,I would say that Alexander Scriabin[1872-1915] has a better claim to that title.
These are just my own opinions,of course. Music is oviously a matter of taste.
Gnomon - time to move on Posted Aug 27, 2001
Who said Mahler was the father of 12-tone music?
Sepulveda Posted Aug 27, 2001
Perhaps I should have chosen my words more carefully. 'Grandfather' of 12-tone music might have been a better phrase,in terms of Mahler being the missing link between Wagner and Schoenberg.
Obviously, Mahler didn't write dodecaphonic music, but his music is seen by some scholars as the vital stepping stone between the late romantic idiom and the second Viennese school. It is this proposition that I was questioning. Mahler certainly used some unusual harmonies in his music, but that doesn't necessarily make him the key figure in the progression towards 12-tone music.
As to who has described Mahler as an important figure in the progression towards dodecaphony, I've listed a few examples below.
1]Deryck Cooke mentions the 'pervasive' breakdown of tonality in his sleeve notes to Mahler's ninth symphony.
2]Kurt Blaukopf [Mahler's biographer] describes Mahler as the 'future's contemporary',meaning that Mahler's music was clearly pointing the way towards the innovations of Schoenberg,Berg and Webern.
3]Paul Griffiths in 'The Cambridge Guide to Music' describes Mahler's music as incorporating a dissonance and chromaticism that implies the extinction of tonality
4]As if it that weren't enough, Karlheinz Stockhausen has mentioned the debt he owes to Mahler in the development of his style.
I don't mean to dismiss Mahler's music,or even his role as an innovator. It's just that in my opinion he wasn't such an important composer in the march towards dodecaphony as some people would suggest. During the first decade of the 20th century, for example, Scriabin was already using quartal harmonies and was also dispensing with key signatures.This surely places him at the start of an era whilst Mahler always seems to me to stand at the end of one.
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