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!'