Mahler, Gustav (1860 – 1911)

Gustav Mahler  was an Austrian late-Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. While in his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of relative neglect which included a ban on its performance in much of Europe during the Nazi era. After 1945 his compositions were rediscovered and championed by a new generation of listeners; Mahler then became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers, a position he has sustained into the 21st century.

Born in Bohemia (then part of Austrian Empire) as a German-speaking Jew of humble circumstances, Mahler displayed his musical gifts at an early age. After graduating from the Vienna Conservatory in 1878, he held a succession of conducting posts of rising importance in the opera houses of Europe, culminating in his appointment in 1897 as director of the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper). During his ten years in Vienna, Mahler—who had converted to Catholicism to secure the post—experienced regular opposition and hostility from the anti-Semitic press. Nevertheless, his innovative productions and insistence on the highest performance standards ensured his reputation as one of the greatest of opera conductors, particularly as an interpreter of the stage works of Wagner, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. Late in his life he was briefly director of New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic.

Mahler’s œuvre is relatively limited; for much of his life composing was necessarily a part-time activity while he earned his living as a conductor. Aside from early works such as a movement from a piano quartet composed when he was a student in Vienna, Mahler’s works are generally designed for large orchestral forces, symphonic choruses and operatic soloists. These works were frequently controversial when first performed, and several were slow to receive critical and popular approval; exceptions included his Symphony No. 2, Symphony No. 3, and the triumphant premiere of his Eighth Symphony in 1910. Some of Mahler’s immediate musical successors included the composers of the Second Viennese School, notably Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Dmitri Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten are among later 20th-century composers who admired and were influenced by Mahler. The International Gustav Mahler Institute was established in 1955 to honour the composer’s life and work. (source: Wikipedia)

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Das Knaben Wunderhorn

Originally for voice and piano, these songs are settings of poems from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (‘The Youth’s Magic Horn’), a collection of anonymous German folk poems assembled by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano and published between 1805 and 1808.

In Praise of Lofty JudgementIn Praise of Lofty Intelligence
BB BE 110107 – $38.00
2′ 30″- advanced

In this Wunderhorn song, Mahler humorously portrays a singing competition between the cuckoo and the nightingale. Of course there has to be a judge and the cuckoo chooses the donkey because he has big ears, so he must hear well, something that is an asset when judging music. The birds sing and the donkey finds the song of the nightingale far too complicated, making his head spin if not giving him a headache. The song of the cuckoo includes thirds and fourths and fifths that the donkey finds simple and good.

arranged by Michael Allen for Trumpet in E flat, Piccolo Trumpet in A, Trumpet in B flat, Flugelhorn (solo), 2 Horns, 3 Trombones, Euphonium, Tuba

St. Anthony of Padua's Fish Sermon from Das Knaben WunderhornSt. Anthony of Padua’s Fish Sermon
BB BE 111020 – $45.00
14′ 20″ – advanced

A comic song in which St. Anthony finds his church empty, so goes to the river and delivers his sermon to the fish.  The fish like it very much but, perhaps ironically, forget every word.  Mahler used this song as the basis for the 3rd Movement Scherzo of Symphony No. 2 which he was composing around the same time.

arranged by Michael Allen for Trumpet in E flat, 2 Trumpets in B flat (one doubles on piccolo), Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium (solo), Tuba 

Urlicht (Primordial Light) from Das Knaben WunderhornUrlicht (Primordial Light)
BE 110106 – $42.00
5′ 30″ – advanced

This Wunderhorn song appears again as the 4th Movement of Symphony 2 – the text speaks for itself:

O red rose!
Man lies in direst need!
Man lies in deepest pain!
If only I were in heaven!

I walked along a broad path;
an angel sought to turn me back
Ah no!  I will not be turned away
I come from God, and to God I will return!
Dear God will give me light,
will light me to eternal, blessed life!

arranged by Michael Allen for Trumpet in E flat, 2 Trumpets in C (one doubles Piccolo in A), Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba, (optional glockenspiel)

Where the Beautiful Trumpet SoundsWhere the Beautiful Trumpet Sounds
BE 031001 – $45.00
7′ 00″ – advanced

Mahler altered the original text of this Wunderhorn poem to make this song into a masterful evocation of the eerie midnight encounter of a young girl and the ghost of her dead sweetheart, killed in battle.

arranged by Michael Allen for  Trumpet in E flat, 2 Trumpets in B flat, Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba

Langsam Chorale From the Finale of Symphony No 3Langsam Chorale from Symphony No. 3
BB BE 161205 – $38.00
2′ 30″ – difficult

Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 was written between 1893 and 1896. It is his longest piece and is the longest symphony in the standard repertoire, with a typical performance lasting between 90 and 105 minutes. The excerpt here is quite short in comparison and is taken from the last section marked Langsam—Ruhevoll—Empfunden (Slow. Calm. Deeply felt.)

Arranged by Michael Allen for Trumpet in E flat, Trumpet in B flat, 2 Flugelhorns, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba

Songs of a Wayfarer

This cycle of four songs is the composer’s first mature work and the start of a genre known as the orchestral song cycle. The cycle tells the story (Mahler also wrote the lyrics) of a young man betrayed by his lover. The hero wanders the countryside, going through a series of emotional states. This work is semi-autobiographical, as Mahler had been rejected by soprano Johanna Richter.

Ging Heut’ Morgens ubers Feld (I Went this morning over the Field) From Songs of the WayfarerDie Zwei Blauen Augen (The two blue eyes)
BB BE 160304 – $38.00
3′ 30″ – difficult


Ging Heut’ Morgens ubers Feld (I Went this morning over the Field) From Songs of the Wayfarer
Ging Heut’ Morgens ubers Feld (I went this morning over the field)
BB BE 160302 – $38.00
4′ 00″ – difficult


Ich hab ein gluhend Messer (I have a gleaming knife) From Songs of the Wayfarer
BB BE 160303 – $38.00
3′ 00″ – difficult


3′ 00″ – difficult