Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez share personal written appreciations of Gustav Mahler's genius.
Download now ›
Carnegie Hall presents
Bernstein: The Mahler Symphonies
The pioneering 1960s and ‘70s Columbia Masterworks recordings have been newly remastered and are now available in this 12-CD set.
Buy now ›
Once thought of as musical curiosities, the symphonies of Gustav Mahler have become staples of the orchestral repertoire. Mahler once famously declared, “the symphony must be like the world, it must embrace everything.” In this introduction to Mahler’s symphonies, trace his lifelong creative path from the exuberant Romanticism of his First Symphony to the haunted music of his last, and begin a fascinating traversal through the work of this extraordinary composer, about whom Leonard Bernstein rightly said in 1967: “His time has come.”
“It is always the same with me; only when I experience something do I compose, and only when composing do I experience! After all, a musician's nature can hardly be expressed in words.”—Gustav Mahler
The Symphonies in Sequence
Excerpt from Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 (Finale)
Daniel Barenboim; Thomas Quasthoff
Symphony No. 1
The work that introduced the composer’s staggering talent to the public, it offers the listener a veritable epic novel in sound.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Sir George Solti / London/Decca
Excerpt from Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection” (IV. “Urlicht”)
Pierre Boulez; Dorothea Röschmann, Michelle DeYoung
Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection”
At the climax of the “Resurrection” Symphony’s finale, vocal soloists, the entire orchestra, and a full chorus bring the work to an ecstatic conclusion.
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano / Vienna Philharmonic/ Pierre Boulez, conductor /DG
Excerpt from Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 (Conclusion of I. Kräftig. Entschieden)
Pierre Boulez; Michelle DeYoung
Mahler explores every corner of the world and every shade of human emotion, ranging from sheer physical exuberance and the enjoyment of nature to contemplation of ultimate mysteries and celebration of the delights of heaven.
New York Philharmonic / Pierre Boulez / NYSP 9803/04
Excerpt from Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 (IV. “Das himmlische Leben”)
Pierre Boulez; Dorothea Röschmann
Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Symphony No. 4
Of all Mahler’s symphonies, the Fourth stands out for its general air of childlike charm and gentle radiance, the absence of spiritual turmoil, and its transparent textures.
Juliane Banse, Soprano / The Cleveland Orchestra / Pierre Boulez / DG
Excerpt from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 (I. Trauermarsch)
Daniel Barenboim; Thomas Quasthoff
Symphony No. 5
After Beethoven, fifth symphonies became special landmarks for composers. Mahler’s is an epic work: large in scale, extreme in its expressive character, abundant in its musical ideas and invention.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Daniel Barenboim / EMI
Excerpt from Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 (I. Allegro energico, ma non troppo. Heftig aber markig)
While so much of Mahler’s music is deeply personal, and much of it despairing, in the Sixth he plumbed new depths, culminating with “three blows of fate” sounded by a hammer in the last movement.
Vienna Philharmonic / Pierre Boulez / DG
Excerpt from Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 (V. Rondo-Finale)
Daniel Barenboim; Thomas Hampson
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Symphony No. 7
The Seventh Symphony often explores dark corners of the soul. It was premiered during a period of grief and upheaval in Mahler’s life: the death of his four-year-old daughter, his resignation from the Vienna Opera, and the diagnosis of a heart ailment that would eventually cause his own death.
Staatskapelle Berlin / Daniel Barenboim, conductor / Warner Classics
Excerpt from Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, “Symphony of a Thousand” (“Veni, creator spiritus,” from Part I: Hymnus: Veni, creator spiritus)
Pierre Boulez; Christine Brewer, Adrianna Pieczonka, Sylvia Schwartz, Michelle DeYoung, Jane Henschel, Stephen Gould, Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Robert Holl
Symphony No. 8,
“Symphony of a Thousand”
Mahler wrote his “Symphony of a Thousand” in a white heat of inspiration during the summer of 1906, and its 1910 premiere in Munich proved the greatest success of his career.
Staatskapelle Berlin Chorus and Orchestra / Pierre Boulez, Conductor / DG
Excerpt from Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (VI. “Der Abschied”)
Daniel Barenboim; Michelle DeYoung, Burkhard Fritz
Adagio from Symphony No. 10Das Lied von der Erde
Mahler’s “unnumbered” symphony seems to feel the shiver of night descending not only on its composer—terminally ill, though still in his 40s—but on a whole culture of huge achievement and grandiloquence.
Minnesota Orchestra / Michaelle DeYoung, Mezzo-Soprano / Reference Recordings
Excerpt from Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 (IV. Adagio. Sehr langsam und noch zurückhaltend)
The Ninth ends with a slow movement in which gestures of leave-taking are extended over a half-hour span. Sadness, regret, awareness of death, a sense of lifting off—these things are easy to hear in this music.
New York Philharmonic / Leonard Bernstein / Sony Classical