LA Phil Blog

Mahler’s Number One – And Some Unfinished Business

Mahler’s Number One – And Some Unfinished Business

The Hungarian Press wasn't too impressed with Mahler 1 when it premiered

Weekend #2 of The Mahler Project begins tonight, but the program will always be #1 in our hearts - because, after all, it's Mahler 1, the first complete symphony the celebrated composer wrote.

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:

Symphony No. 1:

1) Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer was a big part of the piece that would become Mahler 1. The composer essentially repurposed two of the former's four songs in the latter and kept the basic theme of "losing in love" for the symphony.

2) The symphony's third movement - which includes a minor-key version of the children's song "Frère Jacques" - was an notable dud, as was the symphony as a whole, when Mahler himself premiered it in Budapest in 1889.

Adagio, from Symphony No. 10:

1) Numbers, death, his wife -- all Mahler's late-life obsessions play out in this 25-minute snippet of his unfinished Symphony No. 10. He only completed the Adagio movement - which actually begins andante - before dying of bacterial endocarditis at the age of 50.

2) As it turns out, he had good reason to be obsessive about his wife, as Alma Mahler was carrying on an affair with German architect and founder of the Bauhaus school Walter Gropius. Mahler learned of the affair when Gropius accidentally sent to him a letter intended for Alma, which begged her to leave her husband.

You can read more about this weekend's program here.

And if that's not enough Mahler knowledge for one day, you can also attend a special Upbeat Live pre-concert talk with Mahler aficionado Gilbert Kaplan. These talks are usually only available to ticketholders for that night's concert, but Kaplan's talk will take place on the main stage of Walt Disney Concert Hall and are free with an RSVP (it's required) - so come on down, ticket in hand or not, on Thursday through Sunday at 6:30pm.