Mahler for Moderns
CHANGES of fashion and public taste are often ephemeral and resistant to analysis, but they are among the more sensitive gauges of our collective internal weather. The “Mahler revival” has been one such occurrence, measurable in record sales, growing numbers of symphony performances, and large amounts of often impassioned discussion. Although the extent and the kind of popularity that Mahler enjoys at the moment may be a transient phenomenon, his music is not, and now that it has been rediscovered, it is rapidly being included in the roster of unassailable classics.
In the meantime, while Mahler is not yet completely relegated to that safe category, his cult seems to cut across all kinds of boundaries, and is not limited to faithful music lovers. People who do not listen to much other classical music do listen to Mahler. Moreover, many Mahler aficionados exhibit cultist behavior; if they run into another initiate, they assume that their common taste creates an immediate bond. Conversely, a person ignorant of or indifferent to Mahler’s music is apt to get disqualified as a feeling human being. In other words, Mahler arouses more than ordinary emotions in his listeners, who form intimate relationships with his music and identify themselves by their allegiance to it.
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