Symphony No 5 (1901–1902)
Bavarian RSO, Rafael Kubelík
I very seldom listen to this symphony these days. It was my introduction to Mahler, as it was and is for many others. You can probably say that I grew up with it. I think I was around seventeen the first time I heard it. As you probably know, there was no internet in the early 80’s, no YouTube, no Spotify
. I couldn’t read a score and I hadn’t seen Death in Venice. I might have read about Mahler and about this symphony, but apart from that I had no idea what to expect (at that stage I was acquainted with some Beethoven, some Mozart, but very little else). I think it’s fair to say that my first encounter with Mahler was a little bit like being hit with a ton of everything. Out of nowhere. Which is probably what Mahler intended.
And now, forty years later, there is very little need
for me to listen to Mahler 5. I still love it, of course. I still find it interesting. But I find 4, 6, 7, 9 and Das Lied von der Erde even more interesting. In fact, the only Mahler I listen to with some sort of regularity is 4, 9 and Das Lied. Those are the works that I keep returning to. When I do go back to the 5th it’s more like I’m checking up on myself. To see where I am now. And then, inevitably, I look back.
Scary stuff. But I guess it was time.