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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:
1) The "hammer blows" of the work's finale are played, at least in the LA Phil's iteration, by an actual hammer. Mahler protege Bruno Walter said the Symphony, with its famous three-blow ending, was "...bleakly pessimistic: it reeks of the bitter cup of human life."
2) The happiest point of the symphony - a soaring theme in the first movement - is nowadays called the "Alma theme," as Mrs. Mahler claims it represented the composer's love for his wife.
You can read more about Mahler 6 here.
The Mahler Project isn't over - not by a long shot - but we've got some serious Mahler under our belts here in LA. Mahler 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 are down - just Mahler 6, 7, 9 and, of course, Mahler 8, the "Symphony of a Thousand" to go!