Oct. 15: Mahler's Mahler

By Brian McCreath

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In 1905, Gustav Mahler sat down at the piano in Leipzig and played through a few of his own compositions in piano reduction form, and everything was "recorded" on a piano roll.  It's the only recorded document of Mahler performing, and while he has a (ahem) charmingly casual approach to accuracy, the interpretive aspect can be revelatory.

These piano rolls have been issued on CD over the years, but earlier this year, I had the good fortune to be in Vienna and found a recent release that, for me, stands apart.  For this recording, the piano rolls were re-produced on the Blüthner piano Mahler owned when living in Vienna.  It's not as rounded and perfect a sound as a modern Steinway, and that lends it just that tiny extra bit of authenticity to my ear. 

So if you have a chance to hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra perform Mahler's Fifth Symphony this week, either by going to Symphony Hall or by tuning in on Saturday night for our live broadcast, I hope you'll tune in today after 3:30 for Mahler's own performance of the piano reduction of the first movement of that piece. 

And for some perspective on Mahler's place in Vienna's history and the (now unfortunately ended) museum exhibit where I found this CD, visit Bloomberg's Norman Lebrecht.  Also, check out Brian Bell's audio tour of Mahler's Fifth below.


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