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Thread: Mahler Symphony no 6

  1. #166
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    ^ I think we (you and I) have been here before, Becca. Once an artwork is in the public domain it is what we make it. All performers ignore or change composer's stated intentions to some extent. If it works it works. Personally, I probably prefer A/S but there are a good few performances that I love that do it the other way. I feel I would lose - and I certainly don't think I would benefit - if I adopted a rigid position about A/S. In any case, the history of Mahler's expressed (and apparently expressed) views on this subject does indicate some uncertainty on his side.

  2. #167
    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    No doubt we have, and may well again in the future. But to get back to my first point, why is it that the 6th is the only one where conductors feel free to shuffle the movement order? I'm sure that a similar case can be made for other symphonies by Mahler, Bruckner and others, where arguments could be made regarding improved ordering with respect to tempi/keys etc., but nobody does.

  3. #168
    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    ^ I think we (you and I) have been here before, Becca. Once an artwork is in the public domain it is what we make it. All performers ignore or change composer's stated intentions to some extent. If it works it works. Personally, I probably prefer A/S but there are a good few performances that I love that do it the other way. I feel I would lose - and I certainly don't think I would benefit - if I adopted a rigid position about A/S. In any case, the history of Mahler's expressed (and apparently expressed) views on this subject does indicate some uncertainty on his side.
    And where exactly was Mahler’s “uncertainty” expressed after it was premiered and in his second and third published scores and for five years afterward until he died? There’s no ambivalence and uncertainty. Learn the history of this symphony and why it was changed to S-A 13 years later by a certain unauthorized individual after those published scores. A work such as this is not just “what we make it” when his intentions were made perfectly clear while he was alive. Some of you just fly by the seat of your pants and make things up thinking that anyone has a right to do so. At least understand why there has been conjecture and how it developed... The only reason I mention it is in defense of Mahler who only played this symphony publicly in one way, one order, and the way it was played for 13 years after its official premiere — including for eight years after his death —until there was interference with his published and final wishes... He didn’t have to have anyone tamper with his score in order to get it played like, for example, most of Bruckner’s symphonies. There was no uncertainty with Mahler after he heard this symphony played live in a rehearsal for the premier and decided that the second and third movements needed to be permanently and irrevocably reversed, and undoubtedly for good reasons. Everything since has been pure hubris speculation and conjecture.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Aug-05-2019 at 17:51.
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  4. #169
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    ...why is it that the 6th is the only one where conductors feel free to shuffle the movement order?
    I can't think of any good reason why anyone would change the order of the movements of a symphony. The composer has a plan and that is fulfilled in playing the work in the order written. But it has happened. There was some conductor who did swap the 3rd and 4th movements thinking the audience would be happier leaving with the exciting strains of the march in their heads rather than the dismal finale. Off the top of my head I can't recall who it was and now, dang it, I'll have to look it up.

  5. #170
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larkenfield View Post
    And where exactly was Mahler’s “uncertainty” expressed after it was premiered and in his second and third published scores and for five years afterward until he died? There’s no ambivalence and uncertainty. Learn the history of this symphony and why it was changed to S-A 13 years later by a certain unauthorized individual after those published scores. A work such as this is not just “what we make it” when his intentions were made perfectly clear while he was alive. Some of you just fly by the seat of your pants and make things up thinking that anyone has a right to do so. At least understand why there has been conjecture and how it developed... The only reason I mention it is in defense of Mahler who only played this symphony publicly in one way, one order, and the way it was played for 13 years after its official premiere — including for eight years after his death —until there was interference with his published and final wishes... He didn’t have to have anyone tamper with his score in order to get it played like, for example, most of Bruckner’s symphonies. There was no uncertainty with Mahler after he heard this symphony played live in a rehearsal for the premier and decided that the second and third movements needed to be permanently and irrevocably reversed, and undoubtedly for good reasons. Everything since has been pure hubris speculation and conjecture.
    The work is for us what it has become. And many of the really great performances of this work have it as S/A. Sacrifice those if you want. I won't.

    What I just cannot understand is why some people become so passionate (and even rude on some occasions) about this issue.
    Last edited by Enthusiast; Aug-06-2019 at 10:07.

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  7. #171
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    What is significant about this case is that Mahler conceived and composed the symphony in S/A order and it was actually first published in that order. It is not surprising then that it works that way. For whatever reason he later decided to change it. Mahler was a somewhat superstitious person as evidenced by his reluctance to assign the number 9 to his ninth symphonic composition, so it is possible that there was no truly rational reason for him to change the order of the movements. We sometimes forget that although people create works of art, they do not necessarily make the best decisions all of the time.

  8. #172
    Senior Member WildThing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brunumb View Post
    What is significant about this case is that Mahler conceived and composed the symphony in S/A order and it was actually first published in that order.
    Like Becca said, no more significant than Mahler conceiving the first symphony with the Blumine movement and later dropping it.

  9. #173
    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brunumb View Post
    What is significant about this case is that Mahler conceived and composed the symphony in S/A order and it was actually first published in that order. It is not surprising then that it works that way. For whatever reason he later decided to change it. Mahler was a somewhat superstitious person as evidenced by his reluctance to assign the number 9 to his ninth symphonic composition, so it is possible that there was no truly rational reason for him to change the order of the movements. We sometimes forget that although people create works of art, they do not necessarily make the best decisions all of the time.
    Had Alma Mahler not interfered with the ordering in 1919, there would have been no controversy or conjecture whatsoever. People gave her an authority that she didn’t have after the symphony had already been played 13 years according to Mahler’s wishes. The symphony may appear to have been conceived S-A, but after he heard it actually played in rehearsal in preparation of its premiere, there was no doubt in his mind what he wanted and he never equivocated. The controversy was entirely created by Alma Mahler and some still believe her because she happened to be his wife and they believe that gives her authority. The only justification I can possibly imagine is that Mahler was so crazy in love with her that he probably would have forgiven her for her meddling with the ordering because she preferred it. But that’s the only reason because once Mahler made the change that genuinely brought more contrast between the movements, instead of the start of the Scherzo in the second position sounding like a continuation of the first movement, there was no doubt or wavering. His decision was permanent and the symphony was played A-S during his lifetime and for eight years after until his wife decided to interfere. This is hardly a case where the composer didn’t know what was best for himself.

    These premiere performances were all A-S:

    *World premiere: May 27, 1906, Saalbau Essen, conducted by the composer
    *Dutch première: September 16, 1916, Amsterdam, with the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Willem Mengelberg
    *American premiere: December 11, 1947, New York City, conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos
    *Recording premiere: F. Charles Adler conducting the Vienna Symphony, 1952

    After the premiere in Essen on May 27, 1906, Mahler revised the score during the summer of that year and the early part of 1907, eliminating one of the hammer blows but keeping the A-S order. There was no conjecture or doubt at the time or during his lifetime. The interference and controversy started eight years after his death.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Aug-12-2019 at 14:45.
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  11. #174
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    ^ This issue seems to matter a lot to some of us. I wonder, Larkenfield (and others), do you avoid all the recordings with S/A or do you put up with them? You could be missing quite a number of amazing performances. Somewhere in this thread there is agreement that changing the order that a CD plays the movements is not satisfactory (because the conductor would have played the movements differently if s/he had wanted to do A/S) - so that is no answer.

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  13. #175
    Senior Member WildThing's Avatar
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    I find that switching the order of the movements from S/A to A/S when listening to recordings is more than satisfactory for me. The conductors may have played the music differently if they had chosen the A/S ordering, but S/A recordings still hold up as compelling performances when the order is switched. Having listened to multiple recordings both ways there is no doubt in my mind that I wouldn't have known the difference if I hadn't done the reordering myself. Besides, any potential changes to interpretation that might have affected the details and nuances in these self contained movements are minor in comparison to the effect and change of perspective of the overall arch of the symphony with the preferred A/S sequence.
    Last edited by WildThing; Aug-12-2019 at 21:09.

  14. #176
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    Just received this:

    c21a853c30be9a6ea290a34db09fecdea2028948.jpeg

    Two very different Sixths, will report back soon, if anyone's interested?

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  16. #177
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    ^ This issue seems to matter a lot to some of us. I wonder, Larkenfield (and others), do you avoid all the recordings with S/A or do you put up with them? You could be missing quite a number of amazing performances. Somewhere in this thread there is agreement that changing the order that a CD plays the movements is not satisfactory (because the conductor would have played the movements differently if s/he had wanted to do A/S) - so that is no answer.
    I avoid recordings in the S-A order because I believe it doesn't work that way, and I find it difficult to understand how others don't hear it the way I do and Mahler did.

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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WildThing View Post
    I find that switching the order of the movements from S/A to A/S when listening to recordings is more than satisfactory for me. The conductors may have played the music differently if they had chosen the A/S ordering, but S/A recordings still hold up as compelling performances when the order is switched. Having listened to multiple recordings both ways there is no doubt in my mind that I wouldn't have known the difference if I hadn't done the reordering myself. Besides, any potential changes to interpretation that might have affected the details and nuances in these self contained movements are minor in comparison to the effect and change of perspective of the overall arch of the symphony with the preferred A/S sequence.
    Same here. Any recording I have that’s S-A, I simply reverse the order and play it that way, like with George Szell’s great performance of the 6th. It’s easy to re-order any recording the many of them don’t need it.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Aug-15-2019 at 15:01.
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  18. #179
    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WildThing View Post
    I find that switching the order of the movements from S/A to A/S when listening to recordings is more than satisfactory for me. The conductors may have played the music differently if they had chosen the A/S ordering, but S/A recordings still hold up as compelling performances when the order is switched. Having listened to multiple recordings both ways there is no doubt in my mind that I wouldn't have known the difference if I hadn't done the reordering myself. Besides, any potential changes to interpretation that might have affected the details and nuances in these self contained movements are minor in comparison to the effect and change of perspective of the overall arch of the symphony with the preferred A/S sequence.
    Same here. Any recording I have that’s S-A, I simply reverse the order in iTunes and play it that way, like with George Szell’s great performance of the 6th. Claudio Abbado and Simon Rattle have always played it A-S that I know of. To me, it makes a tremendous difference: you have different transitions: think of it: the end of the first movement now transitions into the beginning of the Andante, the end of Andante now transitions into the beginning of the Scherzo, and the end of the Scherzo transitions into the last movement, for greater contrast of mood between them, and I think it works very well. Those are major changes in the effects of the symphony as a whole, so it was no small matter to change the ordering, not to mention the expense of re-publishing the score, but after hearing it in rehearsal for its premiere, Mahler decided that he liked it much better and there was never any wavering or uncertainty about his decision during his lifetime. I think more people should try it and hear what Mahler heard by making that major change in the middle two movements, if they’ve never heard it that way. I believe the symphony is more balanced and effective and certainly Mahler felt that it was better.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Aug-15-2019 at 15:30.
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  19. #180
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larkenfield View Post
    ....Claudio Abbado and Simon Rattle have always played it A-S that I know of.
    No, Abbado's excellent 2/79 recording with Chicago/DG is S-A order.

    I've tried listening to it both ways, but I have to favor the Scherzo-Andante sequence - for me, it just works better...the first mvt is down, up, down, but ends on a positive note with the Alma theme - then is crushed by the brutal scherzo.....good "vibes" rise again in the lovely Andante, only to be totally overwhelmed by the tragic and crushing Finale....that sequence works for me...composers make choices all the time after they have heard their works performed, and rehearsed....for me, I think maybe Mahler got it wrong with the Andante-Scherzo order...perhaps he should have stuck with his original idea[??]



    To me, it makes a tremendous difference: you have different transitions: think of it: the end of the first movement now transitions into the beginning of the Andante, the end of Andante now transitions into the beginning of the Scherzo, and the end of the Scherzo transitions into the last movement, for greater contrast of mood between them, and I think it works very well. Those are major changes in the effects of the symphony as a whole, so it was no small matter to change the ordering, not to mention the expense of re-publishing the score, but after hearing it in rehearsal for its premiere, Mahler decided that he liked it much better and there was never any wavering or uncertainty about his decision during his lifetime. I think more people should try it and hear what Mahler heard by making that major change in the middle two movements, if they’ve never heard it that way. I believe the symphony is more balanced and effective and certainly Mahler felt that it was better.[/QUOTE]

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