Mahler on Monday Coming to Symphony at 7

Gustav Mahler in 1907(Photo: Wikipedia)
Gustav Mahler in 1907(Photo: Wikipedia)

For the next nine Mondays, we’re presenting the symphonies of Late-Romantic Austrian composer Gustav Mahler on Symphony at 7.  Most will be two-hour broadcasts to accommodate these massive works.

Mahler would probably have been greatly surprised at how many times his symphonies would come to be recorded, even had he known how much progress would be made in recording technology since its very limited abilities at the time of his death in 1911.  I was very surprised.  Mahler’s symphonies are long and complex, and a real commitment is required of the conductor and performers who take on the challenge of recording these huge pieces.

For this series of Mahler’s symphonies, we’re going to present them in the order of how many recordings have been released of each one, from the least often to the most often.  This includes individual releases and box sets of multiple symphonies, so there is some duplication of the same recordings counted more that once.  But still, there’s a whole lot of Mahler out there.

It may not be too surprising that the symphony probably recorded the least number of times is Symphony No. 8, Symphony of a Thousand, for the huge forces required.  If not literally a thousand performers, it does take at least several hundred with all the soloists, choruses and instrumental musicians needed.  Here’s the surprising part–it  appears in 74 releases!

The sequence we’re going to present them in doesn’t necessarily reflect their  popularity as a rating, but I was surprised at which one came in as the most often released recording and the number of recordings of it available.  We’ll present different conductors and orchestras as we go along through the series, and I won’t announce which one we’re going to hear until the day of the broadcast.  I hope you can join me for this unusual way of presenting  the symphonies of Gustav Mahler airing each Monday evening for the next nine weeks on Symphony at 7.

Here’s just a bit of Mahler’s Eighth: