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Mahler

Mahler Defending Schoenberg

Mahler Defending Schoenberg

“Mahler was in the auditorium for the first performance of Schoenberg' Schamber Symphony (Op. 9) in 1907. There were rowdy scenes after the performance, with people clapping, hissing and yelling. Mahler himself clapped, but the man next to him hissed for all he was worth. ‘How dare you hiss when I'm clapping?’ Mahler asked him imperiously. ‘I hissed your filthy symphony, too!’ came the answer. ‘You look as though you would!’ countered Mahler, and the two men would have come to blows if the police had not intervened.

“Thirty years later in Vienna I [Otto Klemperer] conducted a full orchestral setting of the work, arranged by Schoenberg him self. It was a great success.”

On Mahler's Interpretative Tradition

On Mahler's Interpretative Tradition

“There  is now a ‘Mahlerian’ interpretative tradition, but a regrettable number of conductors employ it quite incorrectly. As Mahler once remarked to me, his retouchings were meant for him alone, and he bore full responsibility for them. Today, The Universal-Edition scores of the four Schumann symphonies are sold to the world at large with his amendments incorporated. 

“The retouching of Beethoven, Schumann and others was an essential feature of Mahler's interpretation of their works. I cannot go all the way with him on this point. He retouched in the spirit of his age. I believe it was unnecessary, and that one can bring out the full content of such music without retouching. I believe, too, that if we heard a Beethoven sonata played by Franz Liszt today we should be shocked by his arbitrary treatment of it. And yet both things, Mahler's retouching and Liszt's interpretations, were entirely necessary—in their day. Mozart's retouching of Handel's Messiah should similarly be construed in the spirit of the age. He added the new-found clarinet and transcribed the harpsichord part for clarinets and bassoon.

“During the rehearsals for his Eighth Symphony, Mahler quarrelled with the leader of the Munich Philharmonic (I think that was the name of the orchestra) because he wanted an absolutely first-class violinist who was familiar with his style. He sent for Arnold Rosé, who naturally took over the leader's place. At that, the rest of the orchestra rose and quitted the platform with one accord, leaving Mahler and Rosé alone. They did not return until Mahler had agreed that their leader should play in all future rehearsals and performances. This happened in 1910, when we still had monarchies and some respect for authority still remained. What would Mahler say today?”

—Page 26-27, Minor Recollections by Otto Klemperer

Mahler on Beethoven

Mahler on Beethoven

Continuing the focus on Otto Klemperer, we turn to his book about his memories of Mahler, “Minor Recollections”:

“In 1910, during a discussion of Beethoven's ‘Pastoral” in Munich, Mahler expressed strong criticism of academically trained German conductors, who, he said, did not understand the work. ‘How should the second movement—the scene beside the stream—be conducted?’ he asked. ‘If you conduct in twelve-eight, it's too slow. If you conduct in twelve-eight with four beats, it's too fast. How, then?’ He supplied the answer himself: ‘With a feeling for Nature.’…” —Page 25

When Otto Klemperer Met Mahler

When Otto Klemperer Met Mahler

“Otto Klemperer was about nine years old when he first saw the man who was to be the central inspiration of his entire life as a musician.

‘I remember as though it were yesterday, seeing Mahler on the street when I was quite small. I was on my way to school. Without anyone pointing him out to me, I knew it was him. At that time he had a habit of pulling strange faces, which made a tremendous impression on me. I ran along shyly after him for about ten minutes and started at him as though he were a deep-sea monster.’

“The schoolboy also noticed that his hero held his hat in his hand and walked with a jerky gait as though he had a club foot. After that initial encounter he frequently saw Mahler, who since 1891 had been First Conductor at the Hamburg Stadttheater and had lived in the west of the city close to the Grindelallee. Two years before his arrival the boy's parents had settled nearby.

“Otto Klemperer's father, Nathan, was a newcomer to Hamburg. Like all his recorded ancestors he had been born in the Prague ghetto. The family name had originally been Klopper, which was derived from Schulklopfer, the synagogue official whose task was to wake members of the Jewish community for early service and its children for school. In 1787, however, as part of the reforming Emperor Joseph II's attempts to integrate the Jews into Christian society, the head of each family was obliged to assume a family name and every member of it also to take a first name. Hence Otto's great-great-grandfather, who had been born Gumpel the Klopper in 1758, died in 1803 as Markus Klemperer.”

—From Peter Heyworth's Otto Klemperer: Volume 1, 1885-1933: His Life and Times