Thursday, July 7, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007) Cor de Groot (1914-1993) Doc Severinsen (1927) Joe Zawinul (1932-2007) Ringo Starr (1940) Michaela Petri (1958)


Lion Feuchtwanger (1884-1958) Marc Chagall (1887-1985) David McCullough (1933)

And from The Writer's Almanac:

Today is the birthday of Gustav Mahler (1860), born in Kalischt, Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic. His father was an Austrian Jewish tavern-keeper, and Mahler experienced racial tensions from his birth: he was a minority both as a Jew and as a German-speaking Austrian among Czechs, and later, when he moved to Germany, he was a minority as a Bohemian. His father was a self-made man, very fiery, and he abused Mahler’s mother, who was rather delicate and from a higher social class. Mahler was a tense and nervous child, traits he retained into adulthood. He had heart trouble, which he had inherited from his mother, but he also had a fair measure of his father’s vitality and determination, and was active and athletic.

Mahler began his musical career at the age of four, first playing by ear the military marches and folk music he heard around his hometown, and soon composing pieces of his own on piano and accordion. He made his public piano debut at 10, and was accepted to the Vienna Conservatory at 15. When he left school, he became a conductor, and then artistic director of the Vienna Court Opera. He became famous throughout Europe as a conductor, but he was fanatical in his work habits, and expected his artists to be, as well. This didn’t win him any friends, and there were always factions calling for his dismissal. He spent his summers in the Austrian Alps, composing.

1907 was a difficult year for Mahler: he was forced to resign from the Vienna Opera; his three-year-old daughter, Maria, died; and he was diagnosed with fatal heart disease. Superstitious, he believed that he had had a premonition of these events when composing his Tragic Symphony, No. 6 (1906), which ends with three climactic hammer blows representing “the three blows of fate which fall on a hero, the last one felling him as a tree is felled.” When he composed his ninth symphony, he refused to call it “Symphony No. 9” because he believed that, like Beethoven and Bruckner before him, his ninth symphony would be his last. He called it A Symphony for Tenor, Baritone, and Orchestra instead, and he appeared to have fooled fate, because he went on to compose another symphony. This one he called Symphony No. 9 (1910); he joked that he was safe, since it was really his 10th symphony, but No. 9 proved to be his last symphony after all, and he died in 1911. Most of his work was misunderstood during his lifetime, and his music was largely ignored — and sometimes banned — for more than 30 years after his death. A new generation of listeners discovered him after World War II, and today he is one of the most recorded and performed composers in classical music.

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