Friday, February 17, 2012

Strauss Was Alone in his Praise: Even the Best Viennese Wanted to have him Certified Insane!

Performance in Berlin

In the middle of December 1901 Mahler went to the performance of the Fourth Symphony in Berlin, where he conducted all the rehearsals, as well as the concert, with the Strauss Orchestra. Fortunately, he was well satisfied with these players. The reception was warmer and more understanding than in Munich, though there was still some opposition. The greatest impression was made by the Adagio; but this time, the last movement, usually brilliantly successful, was less well received -- possibly because the singer was not equal to it. Richard Strauss, who felt closer to the work at each successive rehearsal, was finally swept off his feet by it, especially by the third movement.  He declared that he could never write such an Adagio. They met afterwards at a rather large gathering, and he told Mahler that he had learnt a tremendous amount from him. 'I have studied your Second Symphony particularly thoroughly, and have appropriated a good deal from it for my own use.' As a sign of his high esteem, Strauss later sent him the scores of all his works.

But the Berlin critics, to a man, fell hysterically upon Mahler and his work, heaping their filthy abuse, mockery and scorn upon him and with less restraint than ever before. This embittered him profoundly.

Performance in Vienna

On 12 January 1902, Mahler conducted his Fourth at the Philharmonic concert in Vienna, in an admirable performance.

Its reception was about the same as that in Munich, if not worse (if that were possible), because of the conservative audience that attends these concerts. From the very beginning the most uncomprehending and hostile remarks were heard; it even seemed as if people had come only in order to make fun of the work. They even laughed out loud, showing their disapproval in their looks and behaviour. Afterwards they stood about in groups chattering. I heard some say: 'It starts just as if he were out to play a carnival joke on the public.' Others were disappointed that there had not been more hissing. A few callow youths found it 'ghastly', and not music at all.

Mahler, who was used to worse fiascoes, seemed depressed by this one. He said to Bruno Walter: 'They don't really know what to do with this one: which end should they start gobbling it up from?'

Walter, however, when I was with him and his wife afterwards, said: 'Why is it that even the best of them apply only their yardstick, consider only their verdict, refusing to understand that the sun does not revolve around the earth, but the earth around the sun!'

Fourth Symphony


Gary Freedman said...

Screaming Jews: It Starts in Early Childhood,

Around the age of three, Gustav Mahler was taken to the synagogue by his parents. Suddenly he interrupted the singing of the community with shouts and screams: “Be quiet, be quiet. That’s horrible.” And when from his mother’s arms, he succeeded in stopping everything, when the whole congregation was in consternation and had all stopped singing, he demanded -- singing a verse for them -- that they should all sing “Eit’s a binkel Kasi,” one of his favorite songs from earliest childhood.

Gary Freedman said...

Iván Fischer (born 20 January 1951) is a Hungarian conductor and composer. Born in Budapest into a Jewish musical family, Fischer initially studied piano, violin, cello and composition in Budapest. He moved later to Vienna to study conducting with Hans Swarowsky at the University of Music and Performing Arts, where he also studied cello and early music, studying and working as assistant to Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

In 1976, Fischer won the Rupert Foundation conducting competition in London. He began thereafter to guest-conduct such British orchestras as the BBC Symphony and the London Symphony Orchestra, with whom he conducted a world tour in 1982. His US conducting debut was with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 1983.

Fischer returned to Hungary in 1983 to found the Budapest Festival Orchestra (BFO), which initially was intended for a limited number of concerts a year on a part-time basis. The BFO became a permanent institution in 1992, with a schedule of about 30 weeks of performing a year. With the BFO, he has incorporated unorthodox ideas into practice, including allowing individual symphony musicians to contribute to concert programming, as in the "cocoa-concerts" for young children. Other series include the Titok-koncert ("bag of surprise") concert series where the programme is not announced, "one forint concerts" where he talks to the audience, open-air concerts in Budapest attracting tens of thousands of people, as well as concert opera performances. Fischer has founded several festivals, including a summer festival in Budapest on baroque music and the Budapest Mahlerfest which is also a forum for commissioning and presenting new music works. In addition, there is an annual competition from within the orchestra for soloist opportunities in concert. Fischer and the BFO have recorded commercially for Philips Classics and Channel Classics Records.

In the USA, Fischer held the position of Principal Guest Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for seven years. In 2006, he became Principal Guest Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington. In April 2007, Fischer was named the principal conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington, D.C.), after Leonard Slatkin stepped down as music director in 2008. He held the title for 2 years.