I do not care about the Bruno Walter’s or the Mahler’s himself comments. I care about myself and in the way how I want it to play not one plays, and I am disappointed.
I am not a huge fun of Mahler First Symphony; in fact I am not a huge fun of Mahler all together but I do not refuse that he had many brilliant moments. The Third Movement of the Titan Symphony, the opening, the first 4-5 minutes, are the most brilliant thing that he composed in the whole his First Symphony.
In the Third movement Mahler got balls to go for a giant kill - nowhere in his music, even in the most screaming and tragic his reference to death and funerals Maher did not treat the death subject with such an elegance and ingeniousness. Many years back in “Mad About You” sitcom there was an episode where Paul Reiser explains a concept of laughing at funeral. The show was aired in 90s but I did not watch it at that time and I watched the episode somewhere in 2003. What I saw it for a first time (where Mr. Reiser delivers the absolutely the same notion that I feel) my mind imidetaly was lit up with references to the Third Movement of Titans. In the Third Movement Mahler introduces that mockingly of the “funeralism” as the notion that is so precious to me. That Mahler’s satirical sardonic inflection of Yiddish-Klezmer grotesque accents (Paul, they are not Bohemian-Czech twists but Jewish) is done so artfully that I can hardly remember any other pace of music that rises to the challenge at the same level. Shostakovich was trying to do near similar later on but he was Soviet Russian with all idiotic consequences. Russians are horrible with parodying themselves. You need to climb over own unfulfillment complex to do it…
Anyhow, I have problems how my beloved Opening for the Third Movement is played. Yes, mostly people play it too fast but it is not only about the tempo. The problem is that people play it too musical. The opening of the Third Movement is not a music but a narrative where sonic dissonance is an acting force and where very precise balance between creation and distraction of sound shape up the auditable message. It is not surprise is that when Mahler further up in the middle of the Third Movement go for a full-flown introduction of the Eastern European klezmer band I loss interests as the soup become too salty… So, people pay the Opening for the Third Movement as it some kind of prelude to a Tchaikovsky’s ballet but there is so much more in it… Let me to explain what I would like to hear and how I expect the Opening for the Third Movement to be played.
The opening drum steps must be soft but with “double-face”. They shall have an acoustic feedback, some kind of reverberation that would reflect the drum beat to itself. Tempo-wise it shell be... well not in the way how Maher does it. Let me to explain. Maher opens the Third Movement with main theme of the Funeral March played once but I think he was wrong – it need to be played longer, 2 or 3 times. I was thinking why Mahler made the opening to play by a single double –bass in a basic cello region. Way Mahler demanded to make the double –bass opening mudded and subdued (practically that no one does nowadays)? Then it came to me and when it did I decides to take the Mahler idea‘s further.
I decided that the Opening shell be longer (the main theme played twice), spread across 3 differently ”stopped” double-basses with “delayed” tempo. OK, here is how it shell be. The drum beats are very soft; at beginning almost inaudible with the tempo of let say Nanut’s orchestra (Bella Musica BM-CD 31.2045). Then the first, behind the stage poisoned double-bass with much slugged sound enter the Funeral March. At themed of the first introduction the sound goes to the second double-bass that is just off the stage and that also is very stopped. However the second double-bass sets the auditable level associateable with the dram steps. The key in here is to have the double-bass still not distinctive but to lag it’s tempo “behind” the tempo of the drum beats. It shell be a bit “painfully delayed” tempo. Then he sound is mode to the main double-bass in the orchestra and the whole main theme of the Funeral March played again by it. It shall be still very much mudded but articulate. I would like in this “articulation” to have breaking timing moods, sort of timing perception of a person with mental disorder, let it to be even a bit off the timing mark – again refer you to the way Hoffman played piano in 1915-1020. The purpose of my “comprehensive introduction” is not to imitate the narrative of approaching of a funeral ceremony but rather to enforce of a symbolism of a different kind. A listener shall “work” for his/her listening sensations. A listener shall be in complete “shut up” phase and the listener’s mind shall be looking the way out of auditable depravation. Then the “almost” auditable first double-bass shall be like a lighthouse that begins to guide the listener’s attention. In this case a listener is not a witness of the event but a participant and s/he is not observe a funeral ceremony but rather recognize the procession as a child of own awareness – as own funeral ceremony. Later on, when Mahler begins be to make grotesque scorn of the funeral thyme the personal listeners' “touch” to those funeral moods will be very important....
Ok, now we approach to the absolutely “fucked” moment of the Opening. No one orchestra I ever heard play is “interesting”. As soon a single double-bass fished the first full round of the “Frère Jacques” theme, the cello section with more basses repeat the theme but they all lead by a single bassoon. The introduction of the bassoon is always disastrous in the Opening. The bassoon is open as it was “not there”, it uselessly suddenly pops up from nowhere and I found is it very destructive for the fabric of the piece. I feel that the introduction of the bassoon shall “grow” within the orchestra but grow very fast and when the bassoon enters it shall be not be an abrupt event. Otherwise the bassoon get converted form organic Sound producer to a musical instrument with too much contrived expressiveness.
In the phrase above “grow within the orchestra” there is an element that shall not be overlooked: the orchestra. The lead double-bass and first bassoon do not sit together and when we are taking about VERY kinky, almost Scriabin-like convoluted tempo then the timing when bassoon is “ripened to go” is super critical. Now we enter the subject of WHEN the bassoon starts to play. A few milliseconds of here or there is a difference between the bassoon continue to be a part of the “ceremony” or to be “party popper”. If context of audio installations you would a very serious playback to handle the proper presentation of the double-bass/ bassoon transition. All, the evangelist subjects of imaging, phase corruptions, arrival times and whatever else I pitch at my site are hit here the keystone and one of the explanations why most of the playbacks out there do handle it properly. Seldomly musicians handle it properly. The musicians do with respect to themselves and perhaps a conductor but not always with respect to a microphone. The situation is even is more complicated if an orchestra has 245 microphones and a Moron is mixing the final feed….. Here I go again… Anyhow, I am not pleased with available recordings how bassoon enters the screen on the Opening.
Then more instrumental groups come to play and tuba floods them up. This all set the background for introduction of the first mockery assault – the oboe. The oboe’s role is very delicate – it shell obey the funeral mood but has those travesty hooks. Very seldom the oboe on the recordings hit it right. Sometimes it is overlay playfully and overly zealous in its pursuit of the travesty and sometimes it is not “poisoned” enough. The most important is that oboe in many cases I heard need time to migrate from “funeralism” mode to “farce” mode but as I said in my opening post this transition shell be absolutely immediate and absolutely effortless. Well, I am not oboist and I have no idea what they do but conceptually I would go for 2 oboes sits together where one oboe care funeral tuner and the other oboe “injects” the mean mockery jabs.
I can go on and on but you get an idea where I am go with it. It might be in a away an aberration of Mahler’s idea but this is exactly the part that I care less. If anyone has any suggestion of the Third Movement Opening that you feel might be in my alley then let me know.The caT
"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche