On our return trip from Siracusa to Palermo, we could see, off in the distance, a great flat-topped mountain, covered with snow. When, later, we consulted our map, we realized it must have been Mt. Etna. Continue reading →
Jean Sibelius, standing at the fireplace at Ainola (1907)
After hearing my third symphony Rimsky-Korsakov shook his head and said: “Why don’t you do it the usual way; you will see that the audience can neither follow nor understand this.” And now I am certain that my symphonies are played more than his.
—Sibelius to Jussi Jalas, 18th June 1940Continue reading →
The first symphony by Gustav Mahler to be performed in the USA was his fourth. That historic moment occurred in New York on 6 November 1904 when Walter Damrosch conducted the New York Symphony Orchestra. This was less than three years after the composer conducted the world premiere in Munich and a year before the work reached London. Considering how important New York – and in particular Leonard Bernstein as the conductor of the New York Philharmonic – was to become for the arrival of Mahler’s music in the 1960s, it is perhaps not surprising that the New York Times published an extensive article on the symphony and its composer on the day of its premiere. It is by any standard a remarkable article for a daily newspaper about a composer who must have been as good as totally unknown to readers – Mahler did not arrive in New York until three years later. The article even included six hand-written musical examples. Continue reading →
The only surviving calligraphy in Li T’ai-po’s own handwriting
The earth breathes deeply, filled with peace and sleep.
—from Das Abschied (The Farewell), Das Lied von der Erde
I’ve long had a CD of Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth). I don’t remember where or when I bought it. I set it aside, forgotten, on a shelf. This year, resolving to fill the yawning Mahler gap in my musical education, I began playing it from time to time. I was separated from the liner notes and, with a notable lack of diligence, failed to find out who wrote the texts Mahler set. Continue reading →