The composer himself takes on the prelude. On the way from Berlin to Vienna on 9 November 1905, Gustav Mahler stopped in Leipzig to visit the company Welte und Söhne. It had developed a special method of recording pieces played on the piano by punching the music on a paper roll and then reproducing it with a sophisticated mechanical-pneumatic system, faithful to tempo and volume. The piece was played only once at recording sessions, and nothing was corrected subsequently. The charm and impetus of the moment was immortalised, with all the resulting consequences.
What can Mahler’s own performance offer today’s interpretations of this work? Ivan Fischer is a musician who carefully reflects in his work on the polarity of the original intention of the composer and its transposition onto today’s thinking. In Mahler, this tension is increased not only by the fate that befell his oeuvre, but also by the constellation of sophisticated folk music and compositional refinement in the Fifth Symphony itself. However, the emphasis is shifted here. Today, the most popular movement is the one that contains nothing of the former folk song tradition: the adagietto, a declaration of love for his future wife Alma. In the symphony’s whole, it serves as a prelude to the finale, which, with its specific blend of celebration and ceremony, aims to dispel the shadow of the opening funeral march.
Gustav Mahler [1860-1911]
1st movement (Trauermarsch)
from the Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor
recorded by Gustav Mahler 1905 in the Leipzig Recording Studio for Welte-Mignon piano rolls.
For the performance at Musikfest Berlin set up by Hans-W. Schmitz.
Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor [1901/02]