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Scholarly Journeys Toward Gustav Mahler – Essays in Honour of Henry-Louis de La Grange for his 90th Birthday

Edited By Paul-André Bempéchat

This collection of essays forms the second Festschrift to honour the dean of Gustav Mahler research, Henry-Louis de La Grange, on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday. It includes vibrant, new historical, theoretical, and aesthetic research on the complex mind which produced among the best-loved orchestral works and songs of Western classical music.
Henry-Louis de La Grange's passion and tireless devotion to Gustav Mahler began when he first heard his Ninth Symphony conducted by Bruno Walter at Carnegie Hall in New York. He went on to plumb the depths of this composer's mind and soul and to explore every facet of his existence.
Among the many honours he has gleaned since the publication of the first Festschrift, Neue Mahleriana (Lang, 1997), Henry-Louis de La Grange has been named Professor by the Government of Austria (1998) and Officier de l'Ordre de la Légion d'honneur (2006). He has also been awarded Bard College's Charles Flint Kellogg Award in Arts and Letters, the Österreichisches Ehrenkreuz für Wissenschaft und Kunst, 1. Klasse (2010), the Gold Medal of the Internationale Gustav Mahler Gesellschaft (2010), and an honourary doctorate from The Juilliard School (2010). As another everlasting tribute, the American film director Jason Starr released his documentary film, For the Love of Mahler: The Inspired Life of Henry-Louis de La Grange, in 2015.
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Death and Other Distortions: Analytic Perspectives on Mahler’s Ninth Symphony


Death and Other Distortions

Analytic Perspectives on Mahler’s Ninth Symphony1


Important for the innovations it brings to the orchestral literature of the early twentieth century, Gustav Mahler’s Symphony no. 9 has also become laden with associations of death and dying, extra musical ideas the composer did not sanction. While Mahler made annotations in the draft score, the final version of the Symphony as found in the fair copy lacks those markings or any explicit evidence of leave-taking. Nevertheless, the perception of such morbid elements exists in several interpretations of the piece, and has even been put forth as a motivating force for the music when analysts do not find the work to conform to conventional formal models. A case in point is the first movement, for which existing analyses fail to concur with conventional models, particularly sonata form or variations. Yet when other analytic models are invoked, it is possible to perceive more clearly how Mahler reconceived the structure of the traditional first movement to allow a slow movement to serve as a fitting opening to the entire work. When analysis disentangles itself from the biographical inferences that impose a death-oriented program on this work, it is possible to develop approaches to this important score which demonstrate the directions the composer was taking as he renewed his efforts in instrumental composition after composing such vocal works as his Eighth Symphony and the symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde.

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