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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

PTB Classic – Gustav Mahler

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To mark the Tuesday Blog’s Tenth Anniversary year, I intend to bring back throughout the year an old post format – which I have dubbed PTB Classic – that threads together works off a YouTube playlist to mark a theme (today, a pair of works from one composer) that may not fit any of our recurring series.

The main work today is Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, the last of the so-called Wunderhorm symphonies as it is inspired from that very collection of poems, and repurposes one of the texts Mahler set to music within that larger 1890’s encyclical, "Das himmlische Leben", that presents a child's vision of Heaven. It is sung by a soprano in the work's fourth and final movement.

I own several versions of this symphony, and the one I retained as my selection this week is something of a rarity. Back in 1958, when this recording was made, Mahler's greatness as a composer was not the foregone conclusion that it is today. Fritz Reiner himself had gone on a figurative voyage of discovery before realizing that this was music worth conducting and recording. He made two Mahler LPs with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra: this, and Das Lied von der Erde. Both have stood the test of time well.

Mahler began work on a Piano Quartet in A minor towards the end of his first year at the Vienna Conservatory, when he was around 15 or 16 years of age. The piece had its first performance on July 10, 1876, at the conservatory with Mahler at the piano, but it is unclear from surviving documentation whether the quartet was complete at this time. Following this performance the work was performed at the home of Dr. Theodor Billroth, who was a close friend of Johannes Brahms.

Following the rediscovery of the manuscript by Mahler's widow Alma Mahler in the 1960s, the work was premiered in the United States on February 12, 1964, at the Philharmonic Hall in New York City by Peter Serkin and the Galimir Quartet.
The performance retained is a live performance from the Lugano Festival in 2012.

Happy Listening!

Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)

Piano Quartet Movement in A Minor (ca. 1876)
Sascha Maisky - violin
Lyda Chen – viola
Mischa Maisky - cello
Lily Maisky - piano

Symphony No.4 in G Major (1899-1900)
Lisa della Casa, Soprano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Fritz Reiner, conducting

YouTube -