Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Mahler's 4th

I'm listening to Gustav Mahler's 4th symphony as I type this. On the surface, it's a very light piece, more dancing and cheerful than most of Mahler's work. From the opening sleighbells you can tell this will be uplifting music, and the tunes are just wonderful.

The second movement waltzes you around the room dizzyingly, and yet the musical textures are intricate, despite that surface lightness. There are layers to this music, much that goes below the surface.

In the fourth movement a soprano (Kiri te Kanawa, in the recording I have) sings words from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, depicting a child's view of heaven, singing of the bountiful and delicious foods that will be there:

    Gut Kräuter von allerhand Arten,
Die wachsen im Himmlischen Garten,
Gut Spargel, Fisolen,
Und was wir nur wollen...
   Fine herbs of many kinds,
Grow in the heavenly garden,
Fine asparagus, beans,
And whatever we want...

The 4th symphony's been a favourite of mine for at least 25 years. It's recently acquired a new meaning for me, a far-too-brief, bright flash that's changed how I'll hear this music, always.

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