Why Mahler? Why does his music affect us in the way it does?
Norman Lebrecht, one of the world’s most widely read cultural commentators, has been wrestling obsessively with Mahler for half his life. Following Mahler’s every footstep from birthplace to grave, scrutinizing his manuscripts, talking to those who knew him, Lebrecht constructs a compelling new portrait of Mahler as a man who lived determinedly outside his own times. Mahler was—along with Picasso, Einstein, Freud, Kafka, and Joyce—a maker of our modern world. Why Mahler? is a book that shows how music can change our lives.
The Vienna of Freud, Mahler, Mach, Wittgenstein, Schnitzler, Herzl, Trotsky, and the young Hitler forged the world we know today. It was a meeting point of individualism and collectivism, egotism and idealism, the erotic and the ascetic, the elevated and the debased. At its center whirled Gustav Mahler . . . The man and his music are central to our understanding of the course of civilization and the nature of human relationships.
Art that is both high and low, original and derived, breathtaking and banal, Mahler’s music resists textbook analysis. It is an open-ended mind game of intellectual and ironic discourse, a voyage of discovery that combines self-revelation, consolation, and renewal . . . Each symphony is a search engine for inner truths. To know Mahler is ultimately to know ourselves.
Excerpted from Why Mahler? by Norman Lebrecht. Copyright © 2010 by Norman Lebrecht. Excerpted by permission of Anchor, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Norman Lebrecht has written several best-selling works of nonfiction, including The Maestro Myth and Who Killed Classical Music? He is also the award-winning author of the novels The Song of Names and The Game of Opposites. He writes regularly for Bloomberg.com and The Wall Street Journal, and he presents The Lebrecht Interview series on BBC Radio 3 and The Record Doctor on WNYC. He lives in London.
“A brisk, engaging journey through the life of a fascinating and enormously influential artist.”
—Kansas City Star
“Very enjoyable to read, gossipy as well as learned, and it makes the man come to life.”
“Lebrecht’s book brings Mahler scholarship into to the present by including interviews with conductors, visits to sites with Mahler connections and an excellent annotated discography.”
“Readers of Why Mahler? will be grateful to Lebrecht for his enthusiasm and for his highly personal cultural history.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“As a short introduction to the meaning of Mahler, this sympathetic biography will do very well.”
—The Times (London)
“We could not put the book down. Mahler is boss.”