Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sadness, Mahler & Monochrome Photography

 © Am Ang Zhang 2011         

Farewell                      Wang Wei (701-761)

Dismounting, let me share your farewell wine
Where, friend are you heading now?
Choking, fate has not been kind to me
Will retire to the southern slopes to seek rest
Enquire no more when I am gone
Till the end of clouds, endless white clouds!




 Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth.)

Mahler’s work was set to the German rendering of a number of Chinese Poems.

In an age when people sought happiness in all ways possible we need to remind ourselves that sadness has been the driving force behind many writers and composers.

Mahler wrote Kindertotenlieder to five poems written by Rückert. Rückert wrote 428 poems following the death of his two children from Scarlet Fever. 

Mahler lived in an age when bacteriology was very much in its infancy. There was still little understanding of the role Streptococcus played in a range of illnesses from Scarlet Fever to Rheumatic Heart Disease and Radium was often used to treat Streptococcal related conditions.  

Mahler’s own daughter tragically died from Scarlet Fever four years after writing Kindertotenlieder and Mahler himself contracted Rheumatic heart disease. When there was still little understanding of the etiology of diseases, superstition came into play so much so that Mahler did not want to write a ninth symphony. It was the start of the Curse of the Ninth Symphony.

Das Lied von der Erde was indeed the result as it was composed after his Eighth Symphony and he did not want to name it his Ninth. 

Mahler conceived the work in 1908 when he was already unwell with his heart condition. A volume of ancient Chinese poetry under the title of The Chinese Flute (Chinesische Flöte) repoetized by Hans Bethge was published in German and Mahler was very much taken by the vision of earthly beauty expressed in these verses. Fate he felt has been unkind to him but he felt able to accept it in his own fashion.


Jobbing Doctor said...

Beethoven's Choral, Schubert's Great, Dvorak's New World: all great 9th symphonies that predates Mahler.

He didn't want to write a 9th symphony, qua 9th symphony, but in many ways Das Lied is worthy of the title.

Brucknr's ninth is big in the way that only Bruckner can, and Shostakovitch wrote a very light and jocular ninth, much to the annoyance of Stalin.

Janet Baker is awesome in her recording.

Cockroach Catcher said...

Janet Baker was my first Das Lied Black vinyl.

Totally agree with you.

With modern (not so modern) medicine, the heart condition would have been treated.

Friend just had heart valve work done at NHS's best hospital. She felt like a new person: can think and write more fluently.

We still have some of the best in Health Care.

Ooops, thought I was not going to talk about NHS>

Anonymous said...

Heh, are you changing the colour!

Great work.

Mahler too.