Mahler’s Eighth Symphony is the calling-card for all orchestras with ambition: but which ones should you welcome in, asks Ken Smith.( Originally published in Gramophone, December 2008.) As soon as I got the invitation I immediately called my wife to tell her why I’d be gone for the rest of the week. 'The Macau International Music Festival just asked me to sing in the chorus of Mahler’s Eighth,' I explained. 'Seems they did a head-count the other night and came up with only nine hundred and ninety-nine.'
‘How patient the great man was with me!...How happy he made me then! I would have gone to death, yes, ten times to death for Goethe,’ Beethoven told the writer and critic Friedrich Rochlitz in 1822. ‘Then, when I was in the height of my enthusiasm, I thought out my Egmont music. Goethe – he lives and wants us all to live with him. It is for that reason that he can be composed.’
London's Science Museum sound artist in residence, Aleks Kolkowski, recreated the historic wax cylinder recording process in three live demonstrations in June, collaborating with Science...
They dominated the record catalogues of the 1950s and 1960s. Orchestras trembled at their every irate, intemperate word and record company executives scuttled to do their bidding. When the CD arrived, their recordings were again released in swathes. And then, like the dinosaurs, they suddenly disappeared.
In 1906 John Ireland (1879-1962) picked up a book by the Welsh writer Arthur Machen on Penrith station – it was a defining moment. Machen (1863-1947) came to the fore with his supernatural fantasy and horror stories that began to appear at the time of the decadent movement in the 1890s. His work has been periodically republished, admired by other writers, and there is now a Friends of Arthur Machen society.