Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, love is all around, but, for Mahler’s wife Alma, it comes at a heavy price.
Donald Macleod explores the music and life of Gustav Mahler. Today, love is all around – but for Mahler’s wife Alma, it comes at a heavy price.
Love is a potent force in Mahler’s creative armoury, from the unrequited passion for the soprano Johanna Richter that provided the impulse behind his despairing Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, to the fully requited passion for Alma Schindler that surfaces again and again throughout his work. When Mahler proposed to Alma barely three weeks after their first encounter in November 1901, his friends saw trouble ahead. He was, after all, nearly 20 years her senior – a man at the top of his profession, while she was barely yet a grown-up. Then there was the huge gulf between their personalities and lifestyles – he, work-obsessed and unworldly, she, in the words of Bruno Walter, Mahler’s assistant at the Vienna Opera and later his tireless advocate, “a celebrated beauty, used to a brilliant social life”. But more than any of that, Mahler’s love came with strings attached: he insisted that if they were to marry, she must give up her own aspirations as a composer and focus herself entirely on his needs. All considered, what could possibly go wrong?
Liebst du um Schönheit
Christian Gerhaher, baritone
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
Kent Nagano, conductor
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (No 4, ‘Die zwei blauen Augen’)
Katarina Karnéus, mezzo soprano
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Susanna Mälkki, conductor
Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen
Dietrich Henschel, baritone
Orchestre des Champs-Elysées
Philippe Herreweghe, conductor
Symphony No 5 (4th mvt, Adagietto)
Giuseppe Sinopoli, conductor
Symphony No 6 (1st movement, Allegro energico, ma non troppo)
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales
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