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Rank the Mahler symphonies

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...in the order in which each impacted you the most personally. I'm curious to see if any particular one predominates.

Mine: 9, 6, 5, 2, 7, 1, 4, 8, 3

There's a huge gulf between the last four and the top four. The 6th used to be the one that affects me the deepest but the 9th has replaced it. Is this coincidental with my increasing age?:? Personal tragedy (the 6th) is supplanted by a transcendant, resigned outlook (the 9th). Just sat through Barbirolli's great BPO recording. It's just marvellous. This symphony is a work so other-worldly I can't bear to eat a donut while listening to it. Sacrilege.:shock:

SS

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That used to be my way of thinking abut Mahler symphonies too - I mean ranking them by their emotional impact. But in latter years I've become a bit more objective in my view of them and now listen to them as music rather than catharsis... which they still provide.

I quite often find I prefer to listen to individual movements rather than whole symphonies, some of his best movement are not in the best symphonies e.g. 1st movement of the 7th is just stonking (and bonkers too) but the rest of that symphony doesn't do a lot for me.

so, ranking in terms of 'greatness' -whatever that means:

Das Lied von der Erde (Mahler called it a symphony so I will too)

9th

3rd

6th

4th

5th

1st

7th

8th

2nd.

Best movements:

Der Abschied from Das Lied

Scherzi of 5, 6 and4

1st movement of 4th,7thand 3rd

Adagio of the 4th, Finale of the 3rd

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Ooer. Apart from a Naxos CD of Mahler Adagios, I have rarely picked individual movements from the symphonies to listen solo. I'm quite Wagnerian in this respect - preferring to take in a whole composition, warts and all.:dunno:

The Andante from the 6th, the Trauermarsch and Adagietto from the 5th , the adagio from the 4th, the first movement from the 7th and last movement of the 1st are the immediate ones I'd list as my favourite Mahler moments.

As for scherzos, none... (nor indeed from any other composer). I tend to see them as divertissements before the real meat (the finales) is served.:D

SS

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I would definitely place the 10th, as completed by Derek Cook, up there with the 9th and 6th as the best of Mahler. Even though he didn’t live to finish it, it’s his most forward looking work. Harmonically complex, coming close to the language of Schoenberg and Berg in places. Had Mahler lived there may have been a sort of cross-over with the ‘Second Viennese School’ guys – now that really would have been fascinating.

It also carries an almighty emotional punch. The 9th seems to end in kind of bleak, exhausted acceptance that there is no God and death is the end. A sort of nihilism. But the 10th seems to say – OK so there’s no God and death is end, but never mind the world is still beautiful and I can achieve peace in a gentle acceptance of this truth – it’s not so bad after all. Just listen to the flute melody in the finale, the most gorgeous Mahler ever penned, he seems to be saying ‘even as the darkness closes in we still have beauty, perhaps the last thing we can truly believe in?’.

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I like the tenth too.... if Mahler had finished it I'm sure there would have been changes, I find the Cooke version a bit grey and colourless sounding and I'm sure Mahler's finished orchestration would have been much more vivid in places. The last movement is gorgeous, and Mahler's own scribblings on the sketches make it clear what it was about - his love for his wayward wife.

Personally I don't think Mahler was quite so death obsessed as sleeve note writers would like us to think.Ken Russell got it right - at the end of his rather freely imaginative film on Mahler he has him jumping up and down shouting "I am going to live forever" while laughing at the caricture of himselfh as the morbidly death-and-sex obsessed depressive fromVisconti 's Death in Venice.

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Well I think there is a kind of trajectory – the ‘wunderhorn’ symphonies are very colourfully orchestrated, but by the time you get to the 9th there’s a paring-down or perhaps honing of orchestral sound – the result is more forceful and direct, less decorated. The 10th continues this process. I’ve heard some other orchestrations/completions on the radio that were indeed more colourful – basically borrowing bits from the earlier symphonies. But I didn’t find them as satisfying or convincing as the Cooke.

Of course had Mahler completed the 10th it would have been different, but for me Cooke comes closest to its spirit. I think it’s telling that Rattle stayed with the Cooke version for his Berlin Phil recording.

Interestingly a similar trajectory occurs with Elgar, where the early music is very ‘colourful’ but by the time you get to the cello concerto again you get this paring-down or honing effect. I remember Anthony Payne saying he had to take this into account when completing the third symphony.

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Hard to see how to differentiate among the late ones - particularly given that

the entire first movement of 9th is pretty much a set of variations triggered

by the last few bars of Das Lied. However I guess I would rank them

10 (OK - it wasn't totally complete, and yes I'm sure it would have been

revised, but the Cooke version certainly feels like Mahler, and Alma

did relent in the end....)

9 (although I do have slightly more recordings of 9 than 10 and

the number is growing - just ordered the new Rattle/BPO version that he

chose for Desert Island Disks)

Das Lied - great musically but it doesn't have the contrasts that are

there in 9 and 10, their combinations of savagery and violence as well

as tranquility

6

5

8

3

7

2

4 just doesn't do it for me, despite the elegance of the slow movement

variations and the light relief in the solo violin

1 slightly unfair I guess - the opening section is completely magic, but

the rest is just not as well-developed as some of the later symphonies

What I do find amazing though is the overall coherency - how instantly

recognisable his music is, and how things like the Wunderhorn themes

were able to be spread so liberally.

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6, 9, 5, 8, 7, 1, 3, 2, 4

I remain unconvinced about the 10th - I have Rattle's Berlin recording, so much so that I don't count it as part of the cycle.

I still find the 6th does it for me, more so than almost any other piece of music, as for the 9th then it has to be Walters' account with the Vienna forces, the first recorded version originally reissued by Dutton. sound maybe pretty poor the intensity is superb and frightening at the same time.

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6 2 3 5 9 1 4 7 10 ................................................................................................. 8

God,I hate the 8th. So f*cking happy and joyous.

Mahler? - happy & joyous? :nup: I find it totally unconvincing and quite painful and, well,quite embarassing to listen to. :oops:

Just my opinion. :)

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I may revise my opinion of the 7th yet... last night I listened to a new (to me) version from Rafael Kubelik and Bavarian RSO, a live perfomance from a 1976 Radio Broadcast on the Audite label

It was excellent.... but still I find the last 2 movements too much, too repetitive and too long.But 1st, 2nd and 3rd movements are great.

Sound quality is terrific too, very vivid and alive. Unusual for a radio recording.

I've got a few others from this live Kubelik series on Audite on brand new vinyl - the 6th and 3rd are particularly good.

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It’s interesting how we all relate so differently to each symphony. Mahler symphonies are all very different worlds, and your individual response depends on how you connect with that particular world. In this way Mahler is like Beethoven and totally unlike Bruckner, with whom he is so often bracketed. All Bruckner symphonies inhabit the same world. You can certainly have favourites among Bruckner symphonies, but generally not the extremes of preference that people tend to express with Mahler.

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Didn't Mahler once say to sibelius that a symphony had to contain the whole world in it - or something like that. Probably why his symphonies are so different as they reflect his world at given times in his life.

Mahler, for me, is a wonderful composer as the more you listen the more his works make sense. They do encapsulate so much.

Ironically the only composer I prefer to Mahler is Bruckner, I agree that Bruckner seems to have re-invented the same symphony but unlike Mahler his last has remained unfinished and while there seemes to have been a need to complete Mahler's 10th (many composers were asked), how would finish Bruckner's 9th - a monumental work, imo.

I have a boxset on vinyl bought 2nd hand of Mahler's 7,8,9th symphonies - never been used. I feel the urge to finally open this and have a listen this weekend.

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griffo104 wrote:

how would finish Bruckner's 9th - a monumental work, imo.

There has been at least one completion of Bruckner's 9th, by William Carrigan - Yoav Talmi conducted it on a Chandos release.

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Crikey didn't know about that. Not sure I really would want to hear it though :dunno:

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griffo104 wrote:

Crikey didn't know about that. Not sure I really would want to hear it though :dunno:

Yup, I know what you mean Griffo.

But .... Bruckner dearly wanted to complete his 9th symphony - he had no intention whatsoever of leaving it as 3 movements only, but poor health dictated otherwise. In fact, he wrote a substantial amount of music for the finale. On the recordingI noted above, the "full" performance of the finale takes 22 minutes, the playing of the original sketches for the music by Bruckner takes 16 minutes. So most of the music is there, if not in completed form.

Every deep-Bruckner fan really should have this recording ;).

EDIT: I've just played the ersatz finale for the first time in many years .... ackcherly, there's some really fine echt-Bruckner music in there! :note::^

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