Friday, July 24, 2020

Lied der Nacht

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from September 21, 2018. It can be found in our archives at


This week’s throwback podcast is part of our ongoing Project 366 look at Mahler’s symphonies begun yesterday with the Fifth, as we work our way through the trio formed by the symphonies 5, 6 and 7.

As we discussed in the original post in 2018, the three years which elapsed between the completion of the score and the symphony's premiere witnessed dramatic changes in Mahler's life and career. In March 1907 he had resigned his conductorship of the Vienna State Opera, as the musical community in Vienna turned against him. On 12 July his first daughter died of scarlet fever; and, even as she lay on her deathbed, Mahler learned that he was suffering from an incurable heart condition. 

The atmosphere of the symphony is best described as “twilight”, lying somewhere between the tragic message of the sixth and the more humanistic sounds of the Eighth. Te work is not performed often, and is typically limited to your “Mahler cycles” rather than programmed as a singleton.

As a filler, I suggest listening to a chamber work by Mahler. He began work on the Piano Quartet in A minor towards the end of his first year at the Vienna Conservatory, when he was around 15 or 16 years of age. The piece had its first performance on July 10, 1876, at the conservatory with Mahler at the piano. Following this performance the work was performed at the home of Dr. Theodor Billroth, who was a close friend of Johannes Brahms. The final known performance of the Quartet in the 19th century was at Iglau on September 12, 1876, with Mahler again at the piano; it was performed along with a violin sonata by Mahler that has not survived.

The Quartet forms part of the soundtrack in Martin Scorsese's 2010 motion picture Shutter Island and is the subject of a short discussion between the movie's characters. Its complete performance by the Pražák Quartet is featured on the movie's double-CD soundtrack and here today.

I think you will )still) love this music too.

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