Introduction. Readers of The Orthosphere might approach the following essay as though it were an addition to a suite of music-appreciation essays that I have posted at this website. Previously at The Orthosphere, I have commented on the music of Ernest Bloch (1880 – 1959), Eduard Tubin (1905 – 1982), Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958), and Howard Hanson (1896 – 1981). Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911) is by far a more important composer than any of those four despite the fact that each is a splendid and wonderful composer in his own way. I have reason to believe that once, during his sojourn in New York State and on his way to Niagara Falls with his wife, Mahler passed through the small town on Lake Ontario where, in my exile from my native California, I have lived since the fall of the fateful year 2001. A fair number of Mahler acquaintances made their way to California in the 1930s. I knew musical people in California who had known Mahler – or who had known Mahler’s wife or daughter. I knew others who, like me, had come powerfully under the spell of Mahler, whose influence may be heard in certain landmark film-scores, like those, for example, of Eric Korngold. For me, Mahler has been a presence, immediate and personal, since my late teens, when I began to make my acquaintance with his extraordinary symphonies on record. That was the heyday , at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, of the long-playing vinyl album. Usually, the album came with extensive, small-type notes on the reverse of the cover or with a booklet inside the sleeve that was even more detailed than the back-of-the-sleeve essay.
It was possible in Los Angeles in the early 1970s to purchase “boxed sets” of the Mahler symphonies in the so-called Vox Box series – vintage (usually monophonic) recordings offered in three-disc sets for about a dollar per disc. I probably first heard the “Resurrection” Symphony (Symphony No. 2, begun in the late 1880s and finished in the early 1890s) in one of the many recordings of that work made by Otto Klemperer, a Mahler-acolyte and noteworthy itinerant conductor, who became especially associated with Mahler’s “Resurrection.”