Gustav Mahler, at center, influenced LA more than most people know; his friends and devotees with connections to LA included (clockwise from top left) his wife Alma; and composers/conductors Otto Klemperer, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Max Steiner, Arnold Schoenberg and Bruno Walter.
More than midway through The Mahler Project, not much has been talked yet about Mahler in Los Angeles.
Mahler in Los Angeles? He never set foot on the West Coast, much as he would have liked to. As conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Mahler invented orchestral touring and visited 12 cities in the Northeastern U.S. in 1909-10. Had he lived longer, he might have made it out West and maybe to Los Angeles.
Contrary to popular belief, the music of Mahler isn't all sunshine and light...
What makes the symphony-ending hammer blows in Mahler 6 happen here at the LA Phil
We're being facetious, of course, as Mahler's symphonies are famously dense and more than a little somber throughout - LA Phil Music Director Gustavo Dudamel noted in his post-concert talk after a performance of Mahler 1 that "no one loved to suffer more than Mahler." And, if there's a symphony that proves this fact, it's Mahler 6. After all, a symphony doesn't get to be known popularly as "The Tragic (der Tragische) without earning a reputation for being on the dark side - it ends with three crushing hammer blows - but, true to form, Mahler composed the work at a relatively happy time in his life.
Here are a couple of facts about Mahler 6 that you might not know:
Thursday's performance of Mahler 1 was spellbinding - especially with the powerful way it ended with the Adagio of the 10th symphony - musically "bookending" Mahler's extraordinary but brief life. The viola section was especially poignant with its utterances, I felt.
Being paired with Mahler 1 this weekend (except for Friday's performance) is the only existing portion of the unfinished Mahler 10, the Adagio. Combined, the two pieces present a vision of Mahler that is diametrically opposed - the young, nature-loving Mahler of the 1880s and the Mahler of 1910-11, dying of a heart ailment (and possibly a broken heart).
Here's what you might not know about these two bookends to Mahler's career: