Listening and Seeing (and Mahler)

Three things led me to post this recording. One is that this piece (though not this performance) was one of the late Harry Kroto’s selections for Desert Island Discs. Another is that I had occasion to sort out my CD collection recently and I realised in doing so that I had more recordings of this Symphony than any other. And the third is that I heard a discussion on Radio 3 recently in which a record company executive noted that while sales of opera performances on DVD were very healthy, it was very difficult to sell DVDs of symphonic concerts. I am not particularly surprised by that but I have to say that I love the visual as well as the auditory experience of a classical concert. A large group of talented people coming together to make music is a great thing to watch, and it also helps understand the music a bit too. I’d much rather go to a live concert (even a mediocre one) than listen to a CD (even a very good one), but failing that I’d definitely go for a DVD.

All of this provides an excuse to show this film of the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Leonard Bernstein playing the gorgeous third moment (marked Ruhevoll) of Symphony No. 4 in G Major by Gustav Mahler. My favourite recording of this symphony is actually by Von Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic on Deutsche Grammophon, but this is well worth watching to see the communication between Lenny and the band. And if you think Mahler is always gloomy and angst-ridden, hopefully this will make you change your mind.

 

 

10 Responses to “Listening and Seeing (and Mahler)”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    I realised in doing so that I had more recordings of this Symphony than any other.

    Wow. I do my best to have only one recording of things, but I try to make an informed choice – which is much easier in the internet era.

    I recall, several years ago, someone saying on radio that the internet had made it generally known that one of the outstanding recordings of a Mahler symphony was by a relatively unknown (then, at least) young conductor. It might have been this symphony. Does anybody know?

    PS Can’t play DVDs in the car…

    • telescoper Says:

      I do have a tendency to buy boxed sets which means I sometimes acquire extra versions of things I already have.

      With this one there’s an extra dimension because of the soloist. A fine performance by the orchestra in the first three movements can be undone in the fourth if the singer is no good!

  2. Bryn Jones Says:

    I’ve got something of a hit-and-miss response to Mahler’s music. I adore some pieces, but others strike me as being overly angst-ridden, morose, or dart too much from one theme to another.

    One of my very favourite Mahler compositions is indeed the Fourth Symphony, which is an excellent piece. This Bernstein clip is very good, although I do find that Bernstein emphasised the angst, emotion and extremes a little too much in some other Mahler pieces. I don’t have a Karajan recording of the Fourth Symphony.

  3. I am not particularly surprised by that but I have to say that I love the visual as well as the auditory experience of a classical concert. A large group of talented people coming together to make music is a great thing to watch, and it also helps understand the music a bit too. I’d much rather go to a live concert (even a mediocre one) than listen to a CD (even a very good one), but failing that I’d definitely go for a DVD.

    I like both. I like the perfection of a recording. (Even very good live bands don’t sound as good as in the studio, especially at a concert where one might not have the optimal position and so on.) But I also really enjoy live music, even though sometimes the trip there and back can be longer than the concert. The worst part used to be showing up an hour or more earlier in order to get a good place if there are no numbered seats, but these days I just sit down in front of the stage and read Dickens on my eBook reader. (I am probably the only person in the world who does this.) Fortunately, concerts in larger venues have at least some seats, and some have no standing room at all, everything seated. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that this is the case for a Who concert this autumn. (Cue some pun on “my generation”.)

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Why, before eBooks, did you not read a paper book in the same way?

      • As I mentioned, I have to come early only if I don’t have a reserved seat. Sometimes there are unreserved seats, but usually only standing room. Thus, a book is too inconvenient, unless it is very small. What do I do with it once the concert starts? And even if there are seats, where I could put the book in my rucksack under the seat or whatever, there is usually not enough light to read well. (The eBook has an optional backlight.)

        I have a thin jacket where the eBook reader fits into the inside pocket (into the outside pockets as well, though it could fall out from there). I even have one shirt where it fits into the shirt pocket.

        I never opt for standing room if there is an option. Fortunately, most of the concerts I attend are seated, and most have reserved seating. If there is standing room only, I arrive early so I can be at the front, since otherwise I can’t see anything and if I were tall enough to see well from a way back, I would block the view of others, but also so that I can lean on the stage (better than standing free for a couple of hours).

        Were I a) a musician and b) powerful enough to call the shots, I would have only reserved seating. Of course, this means fewer people in the same space, but certainly I would be willing to pay more for the comfort.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        A book is typically smaller (and more robust) than a legible eReader, but I take the point about light.

      • A thin paperback book is about the same size as mine. However, on the eBook reader one can change the font size as needed.

  4. Anton Garrett Says:

    Tonight and every night until Sunday I shall be at a chamber concert in a fine 18th century church a few miles from here. This is the 4th year of this festival which does a composer each year, and this year it is (O happy day) Mozart. The remarkable thing is that whoever organises these concerts is able to get international-standard players to come, yet ticket prices still reflect a rural village. Truly a wonderful thing!

    http://www.whittingtonmusicfestival.org.uk/2016-programme/

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