Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mahler's Hammer

Leonard Bernstein once said that Mahler's music foretold many cataclysms of the XX century....

And Mahler's VI Symphony is the best illustration of Mahler's incredible prophecies.
The symphony that starts in quite a usual, almost romantic climate, but ends with chaotic, hard to understand, quickly changing themes. No triumphal finale, no climax - just chaos....

And that hammer....

I'm sure that in addition to pure strange sonority of that huge hammer - Mahler's offered us a symbol of something - something powerful and fearful, but the most important - something out-of-blue, out-of-scene, something you never expected to happen....

And if this symbol, both musical and figurative, can be interpreted by us who know what would happen in Europe just 40 years later - what the hell is that birch twig percussion also used there? A metaphorical broom ?

There is a bad quality YouTube movie with the finale. A better idea is to buy this...


  1. Great capsule review - thank you for teaching me about Mahler!
    I watched the video ... "and that Hammer" - really!
    It is interesting to consider what (else) such a hammer might have represented, to Mahler: something threatening, blunt, intrusive, destructive...what would inspire this?

  2. The fact about Mahler's music is that it is great even without any programme or meaning.

    But, you are right that this hammer is so misterious that we can not stop asking the question: what did he want to tell us?

    There is Mahler III Symphony soon played in Paris Opera with modern ballet - would you come :-) ??

  3. I read online that he was never satisfied with the sound of the "hammer" in any of the live performances. So that made me really wonder what it meant to him...but you are absolutely right - his music leaves room for our response without a program to tell us what to think... And there is so much that it stirs up!

    See you in Paris ;-)