Mulling Mahleria and Moronnials

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Mon, 2016-04-04 01:12

Mulling Mahleria and Moronnials

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 3 in D minor
Saturday April 2, 2016,
Michael Fowler Centre

The end-times presaged by the state of our culture seemed frighteningly imminent in Wellington on Saturday night. Along the waterfront an assortment of homegrown headbangers caterwauled mercilessly, in what was, apparently, an organised event; along the streets, the prone bodies of their fans—the flower of contemporary moronnials—blocked doorways and shouted irresistibly erudite profundities such as "What the fuck?!" and "Fuck off!" to the world at large and no one in particular. Inside the Michael Fowler Centre even the might of Mahler could not entirely drown out the headbangers' wailings that penetrated those sturdy walls. And the Mahler itself was a reminder that this particular composer was an early conduit for the disintegration that is now bringing our civilisation to termination.

Gustav Mahler died aged just 50, of heart disease, in 1911, having composed numerous symphonies and song cycles noteworthy for their inordinate length. He was well on his way to oblivion until the sixties, with their penchant for the perverse, intervened and resurrected him. As the delectably perspicacious Australian musician and critic R. J. Stove observes, "Once it became widely known that Mahler had lamented being 'a Bohemian in Austria, an Austrian in Germany, and a Jew in the world,' his identity-politics credentials became the aesthetic equivalent of a nuclear warhead, lacking only homosexuality to complete his posthumous triumph." (It must be endlessly vexing to today's professional homosexuals that no less an expert than Dr. Freud detected no evidence of queer leanings on Mahler's part. Still, they might derive comfort from the fact that the bisexual Leonard Bernstein became his main champion!) Now that Islam rather than Judaism is the minorité de la journée, might we expect Mahler to resume his rendezvous with oblivion? As intimated, perhaps, by the many empty seats in the Fowler Centre for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's performance of the Third?

One cannot blame the NZSO for Mahler, or fault their rendering. As always with this composer, there are many exquisite (oft-unconsummated) passages, and the Orchestra did them full justice, particularly via the off-stage flugelhorn of Michael Kirgan and the burnished mezzo of Charlotte Hellekant, to name but two stand-outs in a cast of thousands. But as so often with Gustav and his prolonged wallowings in angst, one ultimately just wants to say, "Oh get on with it ... and get over yourself!" Mahler is usually described as "late Romantic"; I would argue that in his gratuitous, indulgent detours, his chronic uncertainty, his propensity to bloviate, and his tenuous relationship with the phenomenon of melody, he was Post-Romantic. Dr Freud possibly would have agreed with me that Mahleria is not so much music as a condition.

Mahler's Third constituted the opening of the NZSO's 2016 season. Next up: Romantic titans Beethoven and Brahms.

More like it!

RIP Merle Haggard

Neil Parille's picture

My favorite country singer, along with George Jones.

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