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Which are the four greatest works by Gustav Mahler in your opinion?

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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
The works are ordered more or less chronologically. Define "greatest" as you wish.

You may change your vote later.

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Top ten most voted works that belong to Gustav Mahler's four greatest according to the poll at the moment (in case of tie, later work gets priority in the ordering):

1. Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection" (39 votes)
2. Symphony No. 9 (36 votes)
3. Das Lied von der Erde (33 votes)
4. Symphony No. 5 (30 votes)
5. Symphony No. 6 "Tragic" (29 votes)
6. Symphony No. 1 "Titan" (17 votes)
7. Symphony No. 4 (15 votes)
8. Symphony No. 3 (9 votes)
9. Symphony No. 7 (7 votes)
10. Symphony No. 8 (6 votes)


Total votes at the moment: 61.

Last update: 10/09/2022.

 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
This time there isn't an Other(s) option as all known non-lost works attributed to Mahler were covered by the poll. Also, I decided to ask for the four greatest works (instead of five) because this poll has less options than the others of this project so far.
 

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Das Lied von der Erde, the fourth, and Kindertotenlieder are definite top ten compositions for me, and the ninth is a candidate for the top ten. Easily my four picks.

Other Mahler works scoring the rare 6/6 on the Artrockometer are symphonies 1, 2, 6, and 10, the Rückert-Lieder, and the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen.
 

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My favorite is symphony #9; I then picked Das Lied von der Erde, and the 6th symphony. No clear choice for the 4th spot; my favorite lieder collection is "Wunderhorn" but that's a loose collection that was not even published as a whole, so I refuse to consider this even a "collective work" and symphonies 2,4,5 and 7 would all be candidates, I eventually picked the 5th as this used be a great favorite (and still is)
 

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Symphonies 6 and 9 and DLvdE are a given. Then it's a toss-up between symphonies 3 or 5. Went for 3.
And I guess I'm the only one who doesn't care that much for the piece of grandiloquent Grand Guignol that's the 2nd.
 

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His orchestral music is all so similar ... I think Symphony 5 is probably the best, the only one with no obvious shortcoming in either construction, length, or the way it can be played. The song cycles are all magnificent as well and compare well to the greatest cycles by Schubert.
 

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But you care for the even grander Feast of Gargantua and Pantagruel that is the 3rd? ;)
I find the 3rd much more original, thrilling and musically satisfying. The 2nd always struck me as a brilliant but rather insincere and shallow attempt at religious sublimity. The only other time when Mahler tried his hand at something so impersonal and pretentious was when he composed the 8th, and we all know how well that one turned out.

The 3rd on the other hand only has this vague pantheist program, something about animal, vegetable and mineral life, and it works perfectly fine as a framework for the gorgeous music. I'd argue that every single movement of the 3rd beats the corresponding one in the 2nd.
Compared to the stunningly original and compelling postmodernism of the first movement of the 3rd, the funeral march of the 2nd, with all its cliches and dead spots pales horribly.
I guess both 2nd's movements are equal, I find them both boring and far from top-Mahler (Debussy famously walked out of a performance of the 3rd during the 2nd movement), but the 3rd's scherzo is far superior to the one in the 2nd.
Then the solo songs: Urlicht is wonderful of course, but I think both Nietzsche and Bim-Bam are more convincing (and again, original!) as a pair.
And the finale - who can ever prefer the 2nd's bombastic Last Judgement soundpainting (based on a rather painfully dated text by Klopstock, which Mahler didn't excactly improve with his questionable additions) over Mahler's first great, GREAT adagio?

Don't get me wrong, the 2nd was my introducion to Mahler, and I still value the piece as an important step in Mahler's development as a symphonic composer, but compared to any of his later symphonies (with the exception of the 8th), it's not that superb.
 

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I find the 3rd much more original, thrilling and musically satisfying. The 2nd always struck me as a brilliant but rather insincere and shallow attempt at religious sublimity
Until I discovered the 10th which is unquestionably his greatest work for me and the only one which might find a place in the overall top 10 symphonies, I liked no.3 the most and it still rates highly. I've never much seen the point of the second -- the scherzo is uninspired and only the choral movement really sets the heather alight although there is an argument for regarding it as a bit insincere or over the top. As it seems to be Mahler's most popular among the public at large, I've never really got it.
 

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The 2nd always struck me as a brilliant but rather insincere and shallow attempt at religious sublimity.
I agree (not sure about insincere but certainly cliché).

The 3rd on the other hand only has this vague pantheist program, something about animal, vegetable and mineral life, and it works perfectly fine as a framework for the gorgeous music.
I agree with that plan on paper but not that it works that well in the end and resulted in better music.
I'd argue that every single movement of the 3rd beats the corresponding one in the 2nd.
Compared to the stunningly original and compelling postmodernism of the first movement of the 3rd, the funeral march of the 2nd, with all its cliches and dead spots pales horribly.
I partially agree although the comparable conciseness and drama of the 2nd makes this about equal for me. And there is no lack of tired march tropes in 3,i either...
I guess both 2nd's movements are equal, I find them both boring and far from top-Mahler
yes. Apparently Mahler found in both cases an idyllic contrast necessary but one could almost skip them.
but the 3rd's scherzo is far superior to the one in the 2nd.
No, it's way too long and has boring stretches, it's mostly saved by the sentimental posthorn stuff which is not a good way to save a piece... And I think the sequence fish sermon scherzo - Urlicht - beginning of the finale is a fairly convincing narrative while the 3rd does not even try to justify the sprawling suite-like sequence of movements.

Then the solo songs: Urlicht is wonderful of course, but I think both Nietzsche and Bim-Bam are more convincing (and again, original!) as a pair.
Completely disagree, I'd rather listen to Urlicht instead of the whole 3rd and most of the 2nd ;) Bimbam is about the third worst song by Mahler for me (after the fake dialect one from Wunderhorn, "Verlorne Müh").

And the finale - who can ever prefer the 2nd's bombastic Last Judgement soundpainting (based on a rather painfully dated text by Klopstock, which Mahler didn't excactly improve with his questionable additions) over Mahler's first great, GREAT adagio?
Mostly agree.
I think both symphonies are typical Mahler and over the top in their own way. In both he seems to achieve pretty much what he wanted (maybe a bit better in the 3rd but this is mostly because the "program" is more original and does not invite comparison to real sacred music or Beethoven's 9th). Maybe he should have left "Urlicht" as separate song and combined the first movement ("Totenfeier") with about half of the last movement for some kind of "Death and Transfiguration"; maybe this would have been even more cliché, though.

I even agree that the 3rd demonstrates the "vision" of Mahler at the time better than the other earlyish symphonies, it's just that I don't that get much from the disjoint, sprawling result as a whole and while the 2nd is about 15 min too long, the 3rd is about 30 min too long for its own good. In the end I like some parts as I do in the 2nd but end up preferring the latter because it has more passages I like and is more concise, except for the last movement.
 

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I find the 3rd much more original, thrilling and musically satisfying. The 2nd always struck me as a brilliant but rather insincere and shallow attempt at religious sublimity. The only other time when Mahler tried his hand at something so impersonal and pretentious was when he composed the 8th, and we all know how well that one turned out.
Exactly, the premiere was considered as "an unqualified triumph" and was followed by 20 more performances in the subsequent 3 years.
 
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