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Gustav Mahler, his music and his life – three online talks by Paul Max Edlin

posted on 28/06/23


To know Gustav Mahler (1860–1911) is to understand his music, and to understand his music is to know the man that much better. In this series of three talks, Dr Paul Max Edlin explores how Mahler’s extraordinary life intertwines with his oeuvre. There is no doubt that his music has had a vast cultural impact on almost all that has followed, from the complex serial music of the Second Viennese School to Hollywood blockbusters. But Mahler was not famous as a composer during his lifetime. No, he was one of the most admired and vilified performing artists of his time.

His personal life was similarly remarkable, with his marriage to the feisty and talented Alma Schindler, his junior by almost 20 years. Theirs was a tempestuous relationship, one also haunted by tragedy.

Gradually working his way through a series of ever impressive positions, he finally took control of the Vienna State Opera and New York Metropolitan Opera in the final years of his life. These talks examine Mahler’s brilliant leadership on the podium, as well as his knack of masterminding the most complex organisations. They look closely at his great symphonies and song cycles. Mahler redesigned the ways we listen to and watch music-making, and he paved the way for a new generation of composers to move away from the strictures of tonality. In short, Mahler was a genius.

They take place every Wednesday from 11–25 October at 4.30pm (GMT +1) and, including Q&A, will probably last an hour. They are available for viewing for eight weeks after the last episode is streamed (20th December 2023).

Register for the webinar series for £45

The talks

1. Mahler, his youth and the Wunderhorn Years (11th October 2023)

The first talk examines Mahler’s youth, his careful but swift rise from directing the music at local municipal theatres to the grandest and most coveted job of all at the Wiener Hofoper. We look carefully at the symphonies inspired by the literary themes within Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth’s Magic Horn), as well as Nietzsche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra and Mahler’s engagement with the heady topics of human redemption and man’s place within the natural environment.

2. Alma and the central symphonies (18th October 2023)

Mahler’s life and creative tendencies dramatically altered course following his first meeting with Alma Schindler, whom he married just four months after their fateful dinner-party encounter. Mahler put away notionally childish things and started creating symphonies that combined a rigorous appreciation of the classical tradition while simultaneously looking into new realms of musical language. The three great solely orchestral symphonies of five, six and seven helped redefine the genre and Mahler created works that to this day remain the pinnacle of an orchestra’s achievement.

3. The three hammer blows: Mahler’s late works (25th October 2023)

Alma and Gustav Mahler endured the worst fate possible, the death of a child, in this case their beloved daughter Maria Anna. She was only four years old. From this moment on, everything changed for Mahler, and further tragedies were to follow. In this final talk, we explore the late symphonies, particularly the ninth and tenth, and Das Lied von der Erde.  We see how the sorrows that Mahler endured are etched deep into his music, sometimes harrowing, sometimes tragic, always reaching into our own hearts in the most profound ways.

The speaker

Dr Paul Max Edlin

Composer, Artistic Director, Performer. Paul has taught in universities for over 30 years, most recently as a professor and then as Director of Music at Queen Mary University of London. He has been Artistic Director of both Sounds New Contemporary Music Festival and Deal Music and Arts. He was also Director of International Composer Pyramid, which has supported some of the world’s finest young composers at the start of their careers.

His music, encompassing ballet, orchestral to chamber and instrumental to electronic, has been composed for and performed by some of the world’s finest musicians and ensembles.

He is a trustee of several arts charities, including Ora Singers, City Music Foundation, Cantoris Charitable Trust and China-UK International Music Festival. In 2022 he moved permanently to Tuscany so he could concentrate on his work as a composer.

Register for the webinar series for £45

Frequently asked questions

What methods of payment do you accept?

An electronic invoice will be sent to your e-mail address 1–3 working days after you have completed our registration form. Payment can be made online using AMEX, Apple Pay, Google Pay, MasterCard or Visa.

How do I purchase the webinar series as a gift?

Please contact us specifying how many subscriptions you would like and who they are for (we require their full name and e-mail address). We will invoice you directly, and after we have received your payment we will release the webinar joining instructions to your friend(s) or family member(s).

Can I purchase a single episode?

No, unfortunately not. The series must be purchased in full.

How do I join the webinar?

An e-mail confirmation will be sent to you after you have paid for your subscription, which includes your unique link for joining the webinar. Reminder e-mails will be sent to you one day and one hour before each event. We recommend that you download the Zoom software in advance of the first webinar.

Can I watch the live broadcast(s) on more than one device?

Only one device can be connected to the live broadcast(s) at any one time. If you wish to purchase a second subscription, please contact us.

What happens if I am unable to attend the live broadcast(s)? 

A recording will be uploaded to a dedicated webpage approximately two hours after the live broadcast. For copyright reasons, these recordings cannot be made available indefinitely; access is granted for eight weeks after the final live broadcast of the series.

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