Turn-of-the-century Vienna was the epicenter of an artistic explosion that was cosmopolitan and irreverent, mixing tradition with folk influences from across the Austro-Hungarian empire. It was here that Mahler penned his Fourth Symphony—not long after his fellow Bohemian Dvorak adapted African American and Indian influences for his New World Symphony.
In a sense, Mahler 4 presages the emergence of jazz: the music riffs on itself throughout, replacing “classical” repetition of themes with constant variation. It feeds upon folk and dance tunes and rollicks with inner conflicts and contradictions, expressing Mahler’s own struggles as an assimilated Jew in the Hapsburg capital that was both artistically liberating and anti-Semitic.
PostClassical Ensemble premieres a new chamber version that spotlights these influences center stage. The symphony’s whirling scherzo becomes a concertino for bass trombone—a wicked showcase for one of the world’s great instrumentalists, David Taylor. Mahler wanted this solo to sound odd, other-worldly, if not diabolical, directing the violin to tune up a whole tone and to play roguishly. This style is squarely in Taylor’s sweet spot and will be a performance unlike any other.
“Not in my wildest imaginings could I have envisioned such revelatory and shocking interpretations” - Sudip Bose , The American Scholar, on Taylor's Schubert with PCE
We’ll also explore the larger topic of Jewish inflection on Mahler’s music via a klezmer set, a Mahler song, and readings of some astounding reviews of Mahler the “Jewish” composer and conductor.
William Ritter, reviewing the premiere of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony in Munich, wrote:
"The audience around us is just as bewildered as we are. We booed our heads off, as they boo only in Paris or in Italy! The plain fact is that, throughout the performance, one row of people after the other got the giggles...
It would be impossible to convey the sensation of madness that such a symphony arouses. What blinded us was the way it swung from the sublime to the ridiculous . . .
You rebel against this music. You reject it with all your wisdom, all your experience and all your convictions , but you’re fighting against your own pleasure, you’re trying to be virtuous. At bottom there’s nothing you like better. You’re defeated. Whether you will or not, you admire it! It was bound to happen that you, an anti-Semite, should be bowled over by admiration for something Jewish!"