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Mahler's World-Changing Music; Clip from the Boston Symphony Orchestra

This article is more than 9 years old.
It’s Gustav Mahler time all over the world this year, as music lovers celebrate the 150th anniversary of the great conductor and composer’s birth.

And music scholar Norman Lebrecht is diving in to take another look at the musician's life and times, and the meaning of his work.

“Mahler, from the very first notes of his very first symphony, was out to change the world,” said Lebrecht, author of a new book on Mahler, in an interview Friday with On Point’s Tom Ashbrook. (Listen to the full show.)

Mahler, Lebrecht said, often felt misunderstood because of his obscure origins and Jewish heritage, and he faced “complete incomprehension” of what he was trying to do with his boundary-pushing music.

Beginning with his first symphony, the composer wanted to employ sounds from beyond the concert stage, putting musicians out on the balconies and outside the hall. “Mahler is delivering music from all over the place,” Lebrecht said.

Through all this, he continued, Mahler was trying to say, “I want you to feel that music is not the whole thing that you are hearing.”

Symphonies worldwide are playing more Mahler than ever. The Boston Symphony Orchestra is one of those; it has kicked off its new season with Mahler.

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