Mahler was definitely the first composer I ever fell in love with. something about the darkness of his intricate and multilayered melodies drove me crazy.I have never been more saddened at the lack of opera from anyone but him. He never wrote one.
Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was a Bohemian-born Austrian composer and conductor. He was best known during his own lifetime as one of the leading orchestral and operatic conductors of the day. He has since come to be acknowledged as among the most important late-Romantic/early-Modernist composers, although his music was never completely accepted by the musical establishment of Vienna while he was still alive. Mahler composed primarily symphonies and songs; however, his approach to genre often blurred the lines between orchestral Lied, symphony, and symphonic poem(via Wiki).
I sort of hesitate to post this because it means so much to me. I know that it sounds bizarre, but listening to Mahler is when I finally "got" "classical" music. I heard in the infinite sonorities of his music the messages he was trying to convey as a composer. It taught me to be challenged as a listener. Mahler stretches tonality extremely far and yet never loses that very tonality that gives him structure. I respect Schoenberg...but I can FEEL Mahler.I feel like the dissonance has a purpose. I'm not quite sure how to explain it. But when I sang Mahler I knew every emotion I needed to convey even if I never knew any German. But that doesn't mean it was easily handed to me. It wasn't a literal translation of a story,it was an emotional translation.
I think to understand Mahler you have to be in the emotional space to accept what is coming. In other words, if you are not mentally prepared for it,don't even bother listening. If you don't like your music a bit more...meaty...don't even try.
Kindertotenlieder(Songs on the Death of Children) I sang this my senior year of college. I don't think anyone understood why I would want to sing a bunch of songs about Ruckert(the poet) children's deaths. Honestly, it wasn't about that. I found so much truth in the music. Yes there were some moments I couldn't sing without becoming so emotionally involved in the character that I could not carry on...but I think that experience is beautiful. I believe every performer should experience a moment where they see and hear nothing but the music. A moment where they just "are" the character. I think singer's have to think more like actors,because we are in a sense,actors who deliver our monologues to a tune. The best feeling in the world for me is when I become lost in character. When my thoughts,actions,breaths,and overall being become someone else's for just one moment. Sounds weird, but those that know what I'm talking about agree it's magical. It's like sleep walking...but being able to feel sensation.When I think about those feelings...it really makes me miss singing this stuff.
All of Mahler's lieder is amazing though. I sang the Ruckert lieder when I was a junior in college.
From Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen-words written by Mahler himself. Listen to the different emotions in just one song of this cycle.Last 2 movements. One of my fave Baritones, my fave conductor,one of my fave composers...what's not to love?!?
Close your eyes,crank this up, and just listen.Take long deep breaths along with the sway of the music.Thank me later.