Mahler Day: today marks 100 years since the death of Gustav Mahler

James Jolly18th May 2011
Gustav Mahler - May 18 marks 100 years since his deathGustav Mahler - May 18 marks 100 years since his death

Today, May 18, marks 100 years since the death in Vienna of Gustav Mahler. If one composer has stepped unashamedly into the limelight in the past 50 years, it’s Mahler – his music speaks to people today as never before and his symphonies are performed and recorded the world over with a frequency that even 20 years ago would have been surprising.

Among the many commemorative gestures, Gramophone has compiled six Mahler symphony cycles and invites you to join the debate in the Forum about the greatest recordings.

If you’re in Prague today, where the 66th Prague Spring International Music Festival is under way, you can catch Mahler’s mighty Eighth Symphony under the baton of Christoph Eschenbach. The orchestra is the combined Czech Philharmonic and NDR SO from Hamburg, and the soloists include Erin Wall, Petra Lang, Mihoko Fujimura and John Relyea. The concert takes place in Prague’s O2 Arena. 

Berliners can catch the Berliner Philharmoniker under Claudio Abbado in the Adagio from the Tenth Symphony and Das Lied von der Erde with Anne Sofie von Otter and Jonas Kaufmann. The concert is also being shown in the Digital Concert Hall, so wherever you are you can join the audience at the Philharmonie (8pm CET, 7pm BST). 

Vienna, where Mahler worked (and died), will be treated to the Ninth Symphony: Daniele Gatti will conduct the Vienna Philharmonic at the Vienna State Opera (7.30pm).

In Amsterdam, where Willem Mengelberg established a great Mahler tradition, Fabio Luisi conducts the Royal Concertgebouw for Totenfeier and Das Lied von der Erde with Anna Larssen and Robert Dean Smith (8.15pm CET, repeated on Friday).

With the New Philharmonic playing in Budapest tonight (no Mahler), New York is a Mahler-free zone – as is London (even on the radio – did we have too much too soon?), but up in Birmingham, you can hear the CBSO and soloists Jane Irwin and Renata Pokupic under the baton of Kuzushi Ono in the Second Symphony (Symphony Hall, 7.30pm).

Paris is also Mahler-lite today, but the Musée d’Orsay has an interesting exhibition of Mahler memorabilia drawn from the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde and the collection of Mahler biographer and expert Henry-Louis de la Grange. As well as copious photographs, there’s a TV interview with Mahler’s widow Alma who reminisces about her marriages to Mahler, Walter Gropius and Franz Werfel (she was no stranger to the state of matrimony). The exhibition runs until May 29.

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