Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Great Masters: Mahler — His Life and Music

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“I am thrice homeless, as a Bohemian in Austria, as an Austrian among Germans, as a Jew throughout the world—everywhere an intruder, never welcomed.” Thus spoke Gustav Mahler (1860–1911), composer, conductor, symphonist. More than many other composers, Gustav Mahler's works are highly personal expressions of his inner world, a world characterized by an overwhelming alienation and loneliness.

The Details

This course offers a biographical and musical study of Mahler, who, along with being a composer, was the greatest opera conductor of his time.

Mahler was a titan of post-Romantic musical history. His symphonies are vast musical repositories of his intellectual, emotional, and spiritual expression. His work constitutes the first generation of Expressionism, the early 20th-century art movement that celebrates inner reality as the only reality.

Unlike other Expressionist composers, however, Mahler used the musical language of the 19th century to explore expressive themes very 20th century in their nature.

These lectures on Mahler bring to life this complex, anxiety-bound visionary, whose continual search for perfection and the answers to life’s mysteries is profoundly reflected in his symphonies and songs. These lectures also include more than a dozen excerpts from Mahler’s symphonies and other works.

Mahler’s music is a mixture of brilliant, rich, irregularly changing harmonies; of extraordinary, often grotesque, juxtapositions of moods: tragedy, humor, farce, irony; constant, almost obsessive melodic activity; sudden, unexpected explosions of passion or rage that disappear as quickly as they come; strutting march music heard back-to-back with Viennese love music; and a pure, crystalline, overwhelming passion untempered by the ‘civilizing’ effect of artistic control and manipulation.

As you follow these lectures, you’ll find yourself using not only the facts you learn but your own powers of imagination, intuition, and instinct to uncover this music’s inner workings.

You will find Mahler’s symphonies are unique. No other body of work, by any composer, traverses such expressive range, so brilliantly combines absolute orchestral/symphonic music with vocal music, so clearly and profoundly define their creator, and are so honestly and deeply felt.”

Great Masters: Mahler — His Life and Music Lectures

  1. Introduction and Childhood
  2. Mahler the Conductor
  3. Early Songs and Symphony No. 1
  4. The Wunderhorn Symphonies
  5. Alma and Vienna
  6. Family Life and Symphony No. 5
  7. Symphony No. 6 and Das Lied von der Erde
  8. Das Lied, Final Symphonies, and the End