Gustav and Alma Mahler

Well, this blog isn’t called runninginthepark, so how about I finally post on my love affair with classical music? Winking smile

With all the snow we’ve gotten over the past 36 hours, I decided that the playlist for this dreary Tuesday most definitely needed to include Symphony No. 6 by Gustav Mahler (nicknamed his “tragic” symphony). Mahler wrote this with his wife Alma as the inspritation. There is some question as to the order of the four movements – if memory serves me, at the premiere, Mahler put the Andante moderato movement second, but later revised it to come third. At any rate, the Andante moderato movement is probably my most favorite classical music piece – it contains Alma’s theme and brings me to tears each time I hear it.

Here’s the link to a recording on YouTube:

Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 Andante moderato

Gustav and Alma’s relationship was complicated (as most relationships are…right?). I feel, through my own research during my college years, that there was a deep sense of conflict within Gustav as he wanted to give Alma more than he was able. Alma had been a composer prior to marrying Gustav, and after marriage, Gustav demanded that Alma stop composing. She obliged, but it’s evident that she resented Gustav for this demand. I think it’s one of those things where one just can’t compromise – it doesn’t come from a malicious place, but rather through recognizing one’s own weaknesses (even if we hate admitting those weaknesses). Mahler had an ego and I think he recognized that there was only room enough in their relationship for one composer.

Gustav Mahler courtesy of

Alma Mahler courtesy of

I have always felt that Maher uses his Symphony No. 6 Andante moderato to express this longing and turmoil he feels within himself and his relationship with Alma. There are the bright sections that remind me of spring, which is often the metaphor for new love, around minute 6:10 in the above video. There are also sections full of dissonances and resolutions which build to create a sense of urgency and longing beginning around 10:40 minute mark and continuing to build through to the climax at minute mark 12:25 in the above video. The music seems to come in waves, which reminds me of how emotions can come in waves, especially when thinking on that special someone.

I was able to see this symphony performed live two years ago by the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis and it was a truly magical experience for me. I know that most people don’t have a love affair with classical music as I seem to have (but luckily my mom shares the same passion, so I don’t feel completely alone on an island), but seeing and hearing this live was a memory I’ll cherish as long as I live. The Minnesota Orchestra’s interpretation matched closely with what I hear in my head, and it completely exceeded my expectations.

If anyone out there (is there anyone out there???) is interested at all in getting into classical music, I can make some suggestions to get you started on your adventure. While I love me some Mahler, it can be heavy at times and I don’t want to scare you off!

Happy listening, everyone!