Mahler’s Masterpiece Das Lied von der Erde Premieres Posthumously (Great Events from History II: Arts and Culture Series)
Article abstract: Six months after Gustav Mahler’s death, Bruno Walter conducted Das Lied von der Erde, a symphony of songs that embodied the composer’s farewell to life.
Summary of Event
Gustav Mahler saw his songs and symphonies as spiritual adventures, milestones in the history of his soul, and in Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) he sought to communicate to others his highly charged emotional experiences as he wrestled with the abiding verities of life and death. In an irony the grim import of which he would readily have grasped, Mahler did not live to conduct the premiere of Das Lied von der Erde. Thoughout his life he had endured many heart-wrenching ordeals, including the premature deaths of several of his brothers and sisters, and these traumas had taught him both of life’s transience and of the evil that dwells beneath life’s surface, always threatening to destroy human happiness. In 1907, he received further confirmation of these convictions when his five-year-old daughter died of scarlet fever and when, two days after her death, he learned of his own fatal heart disease. From 1901 to 1904, he had composed Kindertotenlieder (songs on the deaths of children), the chamber orchestration of which anticipated Das Lied von der Erde’s, and after his daughter’s death he could not escape the feeling that he had taunted fate into taking his child away from him....
(The entire section is 2669 words.)
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