Abstracts of issue 12-13 (2000)

Michalis Lapidakis

Variations on Gustav Mahler

In this article two features of Mahler’s music are discussed: (1) the nostalgia and (2) musical pluralism, both considered as elements of modernism. Mahler belongs to the Jugendstil movement at the end of 19th century; together with Strauss and other composers, like Reger and Schφnberg, he was considered by his contemporaries as a representative of musical modernism of his time. He is distinguished, though, by the rest of these composers in the two above-mentioned points, namely:
(a) Nostalgia and, specifically, the “alienation” (Verfremdung) quality of nostalgia that provides his music with the characteristic tragic tone; in that he is opposed to Richard Strauss. A comparative examination of the relationship of Mahler and Strauss, the two most influential representatives of “musical modernism” at the turn-of-the century, was considered necessary in order to gain greater insight into the nature of nostalgia in Mahler’s music. A passage from the first movement of the Fourth Symphony is presented as an example of the role of the “alienation” feature of nostalgia in music.
(b) The second major factor that stamps Mahler’s music is the mode of “open listening”. The result of this influence is a type of “musical pluralism” in his compositions that de-composes the pre-existing musical language. The terms “open listening” and “musical pluralism” are investigated, as well as the relationship of “low” and “high” music and their function in Mahler’s music. The second movement of the Ninth Symphony is examined as a typical example of a gigantic collage or, rather, a pot-pourri of Lδndler and waltzes. It appears as a paradigmatic manifestation of “musical pluralism”.

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