Gustav Mahler conducts the New York Symphony Orchestra and the Oratorio Society of New York in the US Premiere of his Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection,” on December 8.
This performance was Mahler’s second appearance at Carnegie Hall: Only days earlier, on November 29, he conducted the same orchestra in a program of Schumann, Beethoven, Smetana, and Wagner.
Anticipation ran high in advance of Mahler’s first Carnegie Hall performance with the New York Philharmonic on March 31, 1909. He was set to take over that orchestra as its conductor the following fall, and after hearing him on this concert, many critics augured a bright future for the Philharmonic. The New York Times found Mahler’s interpretations “poetical and searching”; “The concert achieved much … [and] it promised more,” noted The New York Sun.
Although he championed his contemporaries who are less known to us today—Goldmark, MacDowell, and Busoni, to name a few—Mahler was more widely known as a conductor than a composer in his time, and rarely programed his own music in New York. Only eight performances (including repeat subscription concerts) out of his total of 72 at Carnegie Hall contained his work, and he conducted only his First, Second, and Fourth symphonies.
In early 1911, in the midst of his second season with the Philharmonic, the workaholic Mahler contracted bacterial endocarditis, a dangerous heart infection. He barely made it through the Philharmonic’s regular Carnegie Hall concert on February 21, which turned out to be his last performance. Gravely ill, Mahler returned to Europe in April, and died in Vienna on May 18.
Next entry: 1908 The US premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin