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Mahler: Song of the Earth

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Saturday 24 Sep 2016
3:00 pm to 5:30 pm

Queensland Multicultural Centre

Presented by : Professor Colin Mackerras

The Song of the Earth (Das Lied von der Erde) is among Gustav Mahler’s last and greatest works. It was composed in 1908 and 1909, in the shadow of Mahler’s diagnosis with a fatal heart disease, but not performed until 1911, shortly after Mahler’s death. Although it foreshadows his death, it ends quietly on an optimistic note: “The dear earth everywhere blossoms in spring and grows green anew! Everywhere and forever blue is the horizon! Forever… Forever …” The music seems to go on forever, but I always wish it would go on longer still.

The Song of the Earth consists of six songs, based on seven Chinese poems from the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907), four of them by Li Bai (701 to 762), whom the Chinese regard as their greatest poet. The talk will discuss the context of the music, and what drove Mahler to write it.

It will in particular discuss the Chinese poems and background of the work and what made Mahler interested in setting music to such poems. Finally, the talk will discuss various available recordings and show a DVD of one featuring the great Jonas Kaufmann in the tenor role.