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Thread: Where to start with Mahler and Wagner

  1. #76
    Senior Member Tallisman's Avatar
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    In answer to OP, best place to start is doubtless the 2nd. Yes, on the surface the 4th is more 'pleasing', but it's more interesting in the context of the earlier three. 2 is on the whole just a resounding success and really exciting. 1 and 2 are a good bet. From there, you've probably got a taste for the Mahler style or not. But that's not to say give up if you don't like 1 and 2.
    Last edited by Tallisman; Sep-10-2018 at 16:23.

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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    I continue to recommend that listeners take the Mahler symphonies in order, at least from 1 to 5, the only requirement being the investment in time, then go to 9, 6, 7, and 8. Mahler is laying the foundation in his 1st Symphony for what's to come with the others and it's possible to see his development from one to the next. The 3rd is relatively long but very rewarding. No. 6 and 7 represent a shift in his thinking and are perhaps more turbulent and intense in the expression of his ideas, but often end up becoming favorites in the end. No. 8 is the hardest to find a satisfying recording, IMO, because too often the singers are performing at the top of their vocal range and this can become fatiguing for the listener. But Dudamel's performance with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra is out of this world... The best I've ever heard and a monumental experience. This was Mahler's most successful symphony in his lifetime and is highly positive in nature even if the size of the chorus and orchestra can be overwhelming to hear. Stay with hunting for a performance that works. I consider the Mahler symphonies as rewarding beyond all measure if one has the patience for them. A good performance can make all the difference in the world, and the Bernstein set with the NYP can be a good place to start. But I've never known anyone who loves Mahler to be satisfied with just one performance of each symphony. There's a universe out there.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Sep-12-2018 at 04:40.
    Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things. —Ray Bradbury

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  4. #78
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larkenfield View Post
    But I've never known anyone who loves Mahler to be satisfied with just one performance of each symphony. There's a universe out there.
    Couldnt agree more.

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  6. #79
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    Definitely agree about the merits of exploring different performances. Mahler 5 was the first symphony I really listened to, after going to a live performance, essentially out of curiosity. After being intrigued by it I bought the Barshai recording recommended in Tony Duggan's survey, listened to it many times and started exploring other performances on YouTube. Listening to different interpretations, from Bernstein to Wyn Morris, Karajan to Shipway and much more revealed so much about different aspects of the symphony. I've continued this approach with other symphonies: try to find a highly recommended recording, listen to it quite a few times, then try others. With Mahler 6 I went through Jansons, Sanderling, Chailly, Barbirolli and Abbado. Recognising differences between recordings seems to help me understand the music better and enjoy it more.

    Regarding getting into Wagner, I found that after having a go at Tristan and Isolde with really falling for it, having another go after months of heavy Bruckner listening made it it immediately pleasurable and rewarding. I've now moved on to Das Rheingold, which is amazing, and am looking forward to beginning Die Walkure in a week or two. Have listened to the prelude to Parsifal quite a few times as well and can't wait to explore that.

    For both Mahler and Wagner I think there's merit to an 'in at the deep end' approach. I don't think I'd have fallen for Mahler if I'd started with 4. The darkness and visceral thrill of the first two movements of 5 really drew me in. 6 and 9 sealed the deal. Similarly, I'd rather start with the most Wagnerian works than the supposedly more 'accessible' earlier operas.

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