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Mahler in Context explores the institutions, artists, thinkers, cultural movements, socio-political conditions, and personal relationships that shaped Mahler's creative output. Focusing on the contexts surrounding the artist, the collection provides a sense of the complex crosscurrents against which Mahler was reacting as conductor, composer, and human being. Topics explored include his youth and training, performing career, creative activity, spiritual and philosophical influences, and his reception after his death. Together, this collection of specially commissioned essays offers a wide-ranging investigation of the ecology surrounding Mahler as a composer and a fuller appreciation of the topics that occupied his mind as he conceived his works. Readers will benefit from engagement with lesser known dimensions of Mahler's life. Through this broader contextual approach, this book will serve as a valuable and unique resource for students, scholars, and a general readership.
The composers, performers, teachers, and fellow pupils with whom Mahler rubbed elbows during his first period as a resident of Vienna represented the upper echelon of European musical culture. He was both eager and well suited to make the most of this opportunity; his musical ability, his capacity for work, and his fervent sense of ethical responsibility to the art encouraged him to draw all he could from this rich array of colleagues. This chapter presents salient information on these figures, concentrating on teachers (Josef Hellmesberger, Julius Epstein, Robert Fuchs, and Franz Krenn), student colleagues (Ludwig Krzyzanowski, Hugo Wolf, Hans Rott, and Arnold Rosé), and establishment figures (Johannes Brahms, Eduard Hanslick, and the peculiar outsider Anton Bruckner). By the time of his departure in 1883, Mahler would know the city from the inside, but that experience would not protect him in his maturity from the hard lessons learned by so many of his teachers, peers, and idols: that living as a Viennese musician inevitably left scars.
This chapter considers Mahler’s active romantic life, asking how this well-known side of his private personality can be reconciled with his compositions’ lack of erotic energy and his general predilection for what we might call an aesthetics of abstinence. From the beginning, Mahler had no less trouble building a healthy connection with a romantic partner than he did putting to rest the existential doubts that drove him to compose. The categorized nature of the symphonies, that is, the repetitions of attitude and approach – religiose grandeur in the Second and the Eighth, manic “joy” in the Fifth and the Seventh, otherworldly resignation in Das Lied von der Erde and the Ninth – mirror a tendency in his choices of female companions, who likewise embody types: the tormentor, the masochistic pupil, the replacement mother. The chapter focuses on three early affairs, with Josephina Poisl, Johanna Richter, and Marion von Weber, before turning to Natalie Bauer-Lechner and Alma Mahler.
This chapter surveys the wide range of spiritual and philosophical ideas that influenced Strauss during the emergence of his famously idiosyncratic worldview. Already a “freethinker” in his youth, and a product of an “alt-katholisch” household that rejected central Catholic doctrine, Strauss settled into a comfortable atheism while still in his teens. This skeptical disposition provided the backdrop for his encounters with 1) the fundamentalist Wagnerian metaphysics of his mentor, Alexander Ritter, and Wagner’s powerful and cultured widow Cosima; 2) Arthur Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation (1818, 1844), which he studied carefully on his own; 3) the later, anti-Wagnerian writings of Nietzsche (most famously Also sprach Zarathustra), which had a powerful effect on Strauss’s tone poems beginning with Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (1895); and 4) the artistic and intellectual legacy of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, his lodestar, whose devotion to classical culture, and break from Romanticism, were paralleled by Strauss’s own.