A brief introduction to the programme :-
When Gustav Mahler died at the age of 50 in May 18, 1911, he left behind him a legacy of musical creations that embrace everything in the world. In music he prepared his departure from the earthly world, bidding farewell to this world he truly loved. With agony, bitterness, reclusion and relief, his music deeply ponders on death, which he was so familiar from his children days to the last. This radio series is dedicated to the centenary memorial of his death with his music which includes the late symphonies, the sixth symphony that foretells his tragic fate, and songs that he says farewell to the world.
This is a Cantonese programme, I am not a qualified English broadcaster anyway. While planning the series I have laid down a central theme for each episode. So hopefully it will also give you some idea on what is on offer :-
Episode 1: Lebewohl — As Told from the Notes
The distinctive “Farewell Motif,” as Beethoven coined in his 1809 sonata Les Adieux, is consciously incorporated into the late symphonies of Gustav Mahler. At surface, Mahler deliberately recalled the motif, also with its distinctive harmony, to recite his farewell to the world. In deeper levels, Mahler lingered on earth, looking back to his youth, his love, his passion and his life, never prepared for his departure.
Episode 2: The Neighbour of a Funeral Parlour
The tavern owned by little Gustav’s father was adjacent to a funeral parlour which put to frequent use by the Mahler family. Death in infancy was, by all mean, commonly lamented in all European households. The youthful Mahler saw death an irony, and in his music juxtaposed with folklore that makes death part of everyday life.
Episode 3: Liebestod — Love as Death, Love as Redemption
Wagner said, “love is death.” Brahms said, “love is redemption,” yet his redemption was the unobtainable. Mahler found his redemption, the eternal lady. But this eternal lady is also one of his fateful blows.
Episode 4: The Fate Foretold — The Sixth and Kindertotenlieder
At the peak of his musical career and personal life, Mahler penned the tragic sixth symphony; fate ordained death and the colossus faced annihilation. The three hammer strikes in the finale, as originally intended, actualised into three heavy blows to Mahler — quitting the Wiener Staatsoper, his fatal heart condition, and the death of his daughter. In that fateful year of 1907, the self-fulfilling prophecy took its toll.
Episode 5: I am Lost to the World
Mahler declared that his music was not for his own time but for the future. He foresaw his musical success as a real-world equivalent of immortality. The amalgam of love, life and death, transcends into eternity.
You may listen to the programme online at RTHK website. The programme is on air every Sunday at 12 noon and can be listened in Hong Kong at FM 97.6-98.9Mhz.
Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber.