Commentary Magazine

Article Preview

The Mahler Everyone Loves

- Abstract

GUSTAV MAHLER, it would seem, is our most, successful 20th-century composer. Despite the fact that the century is now almost eighty years old-and that Mahler died more than sixty-six years ago-his is still the newest name to penetrate the consciousness of both musicians and non-musicians, of committed fans and casual concert-goers alike.

The frequency of concert performance of his music is itself impressive. In the number of times his works have been played by the New York Philharmonic, we are told, he shares third place with Tchaikowsky, behind only Beethoven and Brahms. Just one year ago, the New York Philharmonic spent the month of September at Carnegie Hall doing a Mahler Festival which included most of his compositions; and this itself was only a replay of the Bernstein-Mitropoulos Mahler celebration of 1960, which may be said to have made Mahler big time in the American musical world. And even in the Soviet Union, where Mahler’s music had fallen under the Stalinist ban, by the 1960′s no secret was being made of Dmitri Shostakovich’s high regard for Mahler, and Yevgeny Svetlanov, the conductor of the State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR, could say: “I personally consider Mahler the greatest genius of all peoples and all times.”

About the Author