Gustav Mahler: 100th anniversary of his death
Just as one Mahler Year has come to an end, the next one begins immediately. While last summer we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the great composer’s birth, in 2011 we are marking the 100th anniversary of his death. Gustav Mahler died on 18 May 1911 in Vienna, at the age of just 50. During his lifetime, he was acknowledged as one of Europe’s leading conductors, and as a visionary, and indeed sometimes feared opera director. His career as a conductor took him first to some small towns, then via Kassel, Prague, Leipzig, Hamburg and Budapest to Vienna. Gustav Mahler’s time as Director of the Court Opera in Vienna is acknowledged as a gold age in the Opera House’s history. His fellow-composer Franz Schmidt describes the impression that Mahler’s debut as director in 1897 made on the members of the Op- era House: “His direction convulsed the Opera House like a force of nature. An earthquake of monumental intensity and duration shook the entire building, from its gables to its foundations. [ô] And now there began for Vienna one of the most magnificent musical epochs that the city had ever known.” Gustav Mahler was one of the most famous conductors of his time, but his compositions were controversial. Following his death in 1911, his works initially fell into oblivion. It was not until the 1960s that his compositions were rediscovered, particularly by the American conduc- tor and composer Leonard Bernstein, whose enthusiastic endorsement helped to make Mahler’s music popular all over the world. Today, Gustav Mahler is acknowl- edged as an artistic genius from the Fin de Siècle, a towering figure who simultane- ously brought the romantic symphony to its ultimate perfection and also paved the way for the New Music. As one of the last great composers in the late romantic sym- phonic tradition of Richard Wagner, Johannes Brahms and Anton Bruckner, he took the genre to its pinnacle, and at the same time into dimensions of well-nigh unim- provable magnificence. In his symphonies, he set to music texts by writers like Klop- stock, Goethe and Nietzsche. But Mahler was not primarily concerned with literary and philosophical reflections, he focused more on the experiential exploration of natural forces, on humans caught between “this earthly life” and “eternity”. The con- certs being held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his death focus on the two gen- res that he concentrated on almost exclusively: symphonies and lieder. This year’s Rheingau Music Festival will kick off with Symphony No. 5 in C-Sharp Minor, and will close with the Adagio from the 10th Symphony and the “Song of the Earth”. From the lieder he composed, we have chosen the “Songs of a Journeyman”, selected “Wunderhorn Lieder” and the “Songs on the Death of Children”. One musical-literary evening will be devoted to Alma Mahler-Werfels. In the “Gustav Mahler Night”, the composer as a person will be examined in a conversation between Mahler aficio- nado Jens Malte Fischer and the presenter Katharina Eickhoff.
Concerts 25 + 26 June 8 July 21 July 2 August 5 August 12 August
Opening concerts / hr Symphony Orchestra / Paavo Järvi, conductor “I can deny no one” Alma Mahler – composer, muse, femme fatale Christian Gerhaher, baritone / Gerold Huber, piano “Songs of a Journeyman” Mahler Night with Jens Malte Fischer / Michael Volle / Helmut Deutsch Alisa Weilerstein, violoncello / hr Symphony Orchestra / Paavo Järvi, con- ductor Closing concert / Waltraud Meier / Michael König / Bamberg Symphony Orchestra / Jonathan Nott, conductor