Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MAHLER'S 1st (etc.)

Yest., in S.F., Dr.Ginny & I saw MTT conduct Mahler's 1st (symphony) that freaked Weiners out in 1901. A contemporary review-cartoon in the program shows Mahler sweatily conducting above 2 dogs barking & beside a cannon firing. Presumably the usual Weiner concert fare had no Moravian birdsong or cannon effects. I said to a guy who'd sat below us in a temp. box P assignment (due to my R-knee) "Mahler showed the most the Austrians could muster then; in 15 yrs it wouldn't be enuf as the Serbs whipt them in WW1 w/Russian help (orthodox vs R.C.) He wondered: "Was Mahler (yet) a Christian then?"

MAHLER & RELIGION; Forced to Be Christian
Letter to the NYT; Sunday, August 22, 1999

A pronounced theme repeated from his early masterworks like the ''Songs of a Wayfarer'' and the Symphony No. 1 to the final ''Das Lied von der Erde'' -- the theme of homeless wandering -- is the earmark of the Diaspora Jews and the foundation for the modern Zionism of Mahler's great Viennese Jewish contemporary, Theodor Herzl. Mahler himself frequently compared himself to Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew, often tormented by his vision in terrifying nightmares. It is particularly poor salesmanship for Ms. Raabe to cite Mahler's supposed ''conversion'' from Judaism to Catholicism. In both law and common understanding, a choice made under duress is discounted as lacking in free will. Mahler converted as a mere formality under compulsion of a bigoted law that barred Jews from directorship of the Vienna Hofoper.Mahler himself joked about the conversion with his Jewish friends, and, no doubt, would view with bitter amusement the obtuseness of Ms. Raabe's understanding of the cruel choice forced on him: either convert to Christianity or forfeit the professional post for which you are supremely destined. When Mahler was asked why he never composed a Mass, he answered bluntly that he could never, with any degree of artistic or spiritual integrity, voice the Credo. He was a confirmed agnostic, a doubter and seeker, never a soul at rest or at peace.

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