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"I have stood high on the mountains where
the spirit of God breathes; I have walked
in the meadows, lulled by the sound of
cowbells. But I have been unable to flee
from my destiny ... the pale figures of my
life pass before me like the shadows of a
long-lost happiness, and the song of
longing sounds again in my ears."
— Gustav Mahler, from a famous 1879 letter
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Harwood (The Dresser, Taking Sides),
Mahler's Conversion; which had a one-
month run, centered on a historically
accurate 1910 meeting between Mahler
and psychiatrist Sigmund Freud.
(An alleged "social anti-Semite," Alma
carried on an affair with groundbreaking
architect Walter Gropius during the later
years of het marriage to Mahler; after his
death, she married Gropius, and then
famed Jewish writer Franz Werfel, with
whom she escaped the Nazis to America,
aided by diplomat Varian Fry)
"From all I've read, Mahler had no use
for organized religion," said the DSO's
Greenwell. "Even as a young man, he
showed an interest in Catholicism —
what attracted him was the mysticism,
the magic, things he found lacking in
Judaism as he knew it."
However, Greenwell agreed that
Mahler's conversion was more a matter
of career advancement than spiritual
The consensus of Mahler scholars is
that the conductor/composer was more
a Pantheist, a worshiper of nature, than
a Catholic, and his concept of God was
as a loving and accepting parent.
Many musicians and scholars find
Jewish influences in Mahler's music,
while others see his melodies and texts as
having more to do with Germanic "folk"
elements, spirituality and love of nature.
Musicologist/psychoanalyst Dr. Stuart
Feder, who chaired a panel discussion on
"Mahler and the Jewish Question" at a
conference on the composer this sum-
mer at Bard College in New York, feels
Mahler's work is shot through with
Dr. Feder, whose publications include
the 1997 article "Gustav Mahler: A
Composer's Childhood," noted that
Mahler's text for the "Resurrection"
Symphony (Symphony No. 2) includes a
reference to_"a still small voice," a famil-
iar term in Jewish liturgy.
And, Dr. Feder said, an alternating
melodic pattern of fourths and fifths in
the same work is reminiscent of the
blasts of the shofar.
At the Bard conference, Dr. Philip
Bohlman, associate professor of music at
the University of Chicago, cited the
"klezmer-type" melodies of the First
Symphony, saying it would be "remark-
able" if Jewish musical themes would
have been "entirely unremarked by
Mahler when he encountered his own
According to his friend and colleague
Alfred Roller, Mahler once said people
should first listen to his music and "see if
it means anything to them, then either
accept or reject it.
"But as far as their prejudices for me
as a Jew, they should leave these at
home," Mahler added. "That much I
demand as my right." ❑
The Detroit Symphony
Orchestra, under the baton of
Neemi Jarvi, will perform
Symphony No. 3 in D Minor by
Gustav Mahler 8 p.m. Thursday
and Friday and 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 19-21. Due to
construction at Orchestra Hall, all
concerts will take place at the
Detroit Opera House. $20-$80;
students and seniors (60 and over)
can purchase half-price tickets at
the box office one hour prior to
classical concerts, based on avail-
ability. For tickets, call (313)
576-5111 or go to the Web site at
Discounts are available for groups
of 10 or more by phoning