In the beginning, before the anguish, the failing health, before even meeting his beloved Alma, Gustav Mahler had been happy - in his way...
In this week's Composer Of The Week, Donald Macleod explores Mahler's early years - from his humble birth in the Bohemian backwater of Kaliste to his triumphant installation as Director of the Vienna Opera at the age of 37.
Mahler's early years are often skipped over by biographers keen to feast on the juicy details of his tempestuous last decade...yet it was in this formative period that the composer wrote some of his very finest works, including his gargantuan, brilliantly original first four symphonies and a veritable plethora of solo songs.
Linking this week's episodes is a focus on the influence of "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" - an anthology of German folk poetry collected by Gottfried von Arnim and Clemens Brentano that obsessed Mahler throughout his youth. Donald Macleod introduces a host of songs written to texts from the anthology, including all ten set by the composer in his collection entitled "Lieder aus 'Des Knaben Wunderhorn'" - as well as a number of rare early songs inspired by the poems.
Donald Macleod also explores the voluminous textual and musical links between Mahler's symphonies and the Wunderhorn poetry; we'll hear extended excerpts from the first three, and on Friday a complete performance of the apotheosis of his early period, his serene Fourth Symphony.
In the first of this week's exploration of Mahler's "Wunderhorn" period, Donald Macleod looks at the composer's childhood and earliest works, including a rare Piano Quartet movement, and his extraordinary cantata "Das Klagende Lied".