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Symphony No. 8 (Mahler)

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This is my second salute to Mahler in his 150th anniversary year – the symphony that was the greatest success of Mahler's lifetime. It is still extraordinarily popular, nearly always sold out when played, although there is less enthusiasm from the critics. The centenary of the premiere is on 12 September 2010, so if the biographical article fails to become TFA on Mahler's 150th birthday (7 July) we will have another date to aim for. As usual, all comments are welcome, from non-musical as well as musical people, from Mahler-haters as well as Mahler lovers. Thanks, Brianboulton (talk) 22:37, 18 May 2010 (UTC)


Comments from Tim riley. Profound apologies - I hadn't realised you have opened a peer review page, and I put a handful of comments on your personal talk page. So sorry. I repeat them here for (?) convenience.

Very little to add, having done a careful read-through. It's well proportioned, an easy read, thoroughly referenced and should sail through FAC. My meagre gleanings are as follows:

  • Passim
    • "Veni Creator" or "Veni creator"? Your usage varies. As it's a manifestation of God, I think I'd capitalise throughout. [But note later comment by User:Gerda_Arendt on Brianboulton's talk page]
      • See my reply to Gerda Arendt on my talkpage. I may insert a footnote on the varying styles used by writers and commentators. Brianboulton (talk) 21:13, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
  • Lead
    • "though Mahler rejected the name" – later (Premiere) you refer to "Mahler's disapproval" of it – much less emphatic.
    • " Southern Austria" – capital needed for "Southern?"
  • Background
    • "the German folk-poem collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn ... which he had discovered around 1887" – This is ambiguous: it could mean that he didn't know the poems until 1887 or that nobody knew them till then and Mahler unearthed them from obscurity. I assume the former is correct, but it might be as well to reword on the lines of "which he had known since about 1887".
    • "the songs … no longer fertilise the symphonies" – an unexpected verb; I see what you mean but someone will take a pot-shot at it at peer review or FAC.
    • "the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Symphonies were written, all as purely instrumental works, with "a new granite-like hardness"" – did Cooke really apply the description to all three symphonies? The granite-like hardness may well have been new when Mahler wrote the fifth, but it can hardly have still been new two symphonies and four years later.
      • I have extended the Cooke quote to encompass all he says on this. Brianboulton (talk) 21:13, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
    • " I saw the whole piece immediately before my eyes, and only needed to write it down as though it were being dictated to me" – Mahler's original manuscript was nevertheless considerably modified before the premiere if we are to believe Otto Klemperer, who was at the rehearsals and "was amazed at the countless small instrumental alterations that the composer made during rehearsals. 'He always wanted more clarity, more and more dynamic contrast. At one point during rehearsals he turned to us and said, "If, after my death, something doesn't sound right, then change it. You have not only a right but a duty to do so."'" (Peter Heyworth, Otto Klemperer, His Life and Times, Volume 1 1885-1933 p. 48)
      • Mahler was talking in the general sense. Of course, after he'd finished it he picked it about, altered it, altered it again, etc (just like I do before submitting a FAC). He always did. But I like Klemperer's comment, so I've brought it into the text. Brianboulton (talk) 21:13, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
  • Choral and vocal forces
    • "The alto solos are brief and unremarkable. " I don't doubt it, but is this your view or de La Grange's?
  • Premiere
    • "transportation center" – Anglicise to "transport centre"?
    • "Deutsches Museum" (twice) – ought it to have a definite article (an English one, I mean)?
    • "Polish-American conductor Leopold Stokowski" – Oh no he wasn't! He was born and bred in London, and so were both his parents – his father was of Polish parentage and his mother of Irish ditto. Nor was he American until 1915, when he took US citizenship (ODNB).
    • "…a letter from Thomas Mann, enclosed with a copy of the writer's latest book, referred to Mahler as "the man whom, I believe, expresses the art of our time in its profoundest and most sacred form"" Two problems with this. First it is awkwardly phrased – "a copy of the writer's latest book" hits the buffers somewhat – do you need mention the book at all? Secondly the quote as presented is ungrammatical – "whom" should be "who". Presumably it's a translation from Alma's original German, so you could in conscience silently correct the translator's error. (If you feel a "sic" coming on, try to resist it!)
      • It turns out it was my fault, not Alma's, and I have altered the text to exactly what her translated version says. And not a [sic] in sight. Brianboulton (talk) 21:13, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
  • Subsequent performances
    • initially reluctant Board of the Philadelphia Orchestra – capital needed for "Board"?
    • "the orchestra and choruses were transported to New York" – this reads a bit oddly – perhaps just "travelled"?
  • Structure and form
    • "saw immediately the spiritual relationship between the two poems" – a touch POV-ish unless referenced. Or is it so obvious as not to need citation?
      • I've rewritten - and re-referenced - this sentence. Brianboulton (talk) 21:13, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
    • "the first of his works in which familiar fingerprints … are almost entirely absent" – really the first of all his works, or just of his symphonies?
      • It's what de La Grange says. On reflection, those elements aren't much present in Kindertotenlieder or the Rückert settings, but that's a POV. Brianboulton (talk) 21:13, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
    • "The 1995 Deutsch Grammophon recording under Claudio Abbado plays for 81 minutes 20 seconds" – should be "Deutsche". And I don't know if it's of any help, but I have checked the timings of some other recordings: Chailly takes 67:33; Järvi takes 69.56; Kubelik takes 73:36; Haitink takes 75:39; Stokowski takes 77:57; Solti takes 79:39; Bernstein takes 83:03; and Boulez takes 85:16, giving an average (but check my arithmetic) of just over 77 minutes.
      • Interesting. How Chailly does it in 67 minutes is a mystery - even Haitink's 75 minutes (which I have heard) seems fast. I have reworded and shifted this info back to the "Premiere" section, where it more obviously belongs. Brianboulton (talk) 21:13, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
  • Part II: Closing scenes from Goethe's Faust
    • "the symphony's signature key of E-flat major" – "signature key" is not a phrase I have run across before, I think. Is it what I call the "home key"? It might benefit from a little elaboration.
      • I think I meant "key signature", but I've altered it to "opening key". Brianboulton (talk) 21:13, 20 May 2010 (UTC)

That's my lot. At your service at FAC in due course. – Tim riley (talk) 10:10, 20 May 2010 (UTC)

Afterthought: I see from your reference no 30 that the Boult 1948 performance was recorded (and has been reissued in digital form) which, if I ever knew, I had forgotten. This means that Stokowski's 1950 live recording wasn't in fact the first recording to be made, though it was, I imagine, the first one to be issued. - Tim riley (talk) 17:07, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
I think you mean ref 34. Yes, the BBC must have kept an recording of the broadcast, which they released in MP form last year. I will add a footnote explaining this. Brianboulton (talk)
  • Many thanks for your review and helpful comments. Where no reply is given, I have adopted your suggestions, or as near as makes no difference. Good improvements. Brianboulton (talk) 21:13, 20 May 2010 (UTC)


Wehwalt

The usual quibbles about an excellent job, as always. Excellent choice of lead image by the way

  • Lede
  • "Mahler did not acknowledge the name" I realize you've fielded a comment about this, but "acknowledge" just doesn't convey what is meant.
  • "acknowledege", in the sense of "accept as valid", does I think convey the intended meaning, but if you can think of a better synonym, I'm game. Brianboulton (talk) 20:38, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
  • "inspirational" A suggestion: "inspired"?
  • "The fusion of song and symphony was a characteristic of Mahler's early works, but in his more mature "middle" period, after 1901, he produced a trio of purely instrumental symphonies." Even reading the next sentence, the relevance of this sentence to the 8th may not be readily apparent to the reader.
  • Reworded to clarify the relevance. Hope this works. Otherwise, suggestions welcome. Brianboulton (talk) 20:38, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
  • "the German text for the closing scene of Goethe's Faust." A bit awkward. What about "the text of the closing scene of Goethe's Faust, in the original German"?
  • I don't think that works - what else would the text be in but the original German? I have tweaked my wording and trust it reads more smoothly now. Brianboulton (talk) 20:38, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
  • "shared musical themes." Is there any support in the sources for a pipe to leitmotif? Especially given Wagner's influence on Mahler.
  • I have never seen the term "leitmotif" applied to Mahler's Eighth, nor to his other works so I guess the support isn't there in the sources. If I find it I'll use the link. Brianboulton (talk) 20:38, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
  • History
  • "Alma Mahler". Perhaps say who she is.
  • "early schemes for the work, which he may not initially have conceived as a fully choral symphony," Not sure the word "initially" adds anything.
  • " On the back is a dedicatory note to Alma Mahler: "For my Almschl. Spiritus creator"—though this is dated August 1906 and may have been added later." Perhaps this sentence is extraneous and slows down the flow. It's a close question.
  • "He claims" Not in at the last 99.8 years, suggest "He claimed"
  • "Although in accordance with Mahler's practice, amendments and alterations were carried out in the subsequent months and years before performance, there is very little manuscript evidence of the usual wholesale changes and successive drafts that were characteristic of his earlier symphonies". Perhaps cut "in accordance with Mahler's practice" and "in the subsequent months and years". All musical works are massaged. Point being made is that there was a lot less of it this time.
  • "the work is the first completely choral symphony to be written" Perhaps consider "was", which would stress the point that this was the first such by anyone, not just by Mahler.

Instrumental and vocal forces

  • "The orchestral forces are, however, less" I take it this is a measure of the number of musicians? I would express it as such, in this instance.
  • Reception and performance history
  • " the many small changes that Mahler made to the score during rehearsal" Perhaps make sure this doesn't contradict that this does not constitute "wholesale changes". I guess if they are small, they are retail!
  • I don't think this contradicts the earlier statement, which referred to "wholesale" changes and redrafting. I have altered "whoesale" to "sweeping", to avoid the commercial analogy.
  • " at the Metropolitan Opera." Where these given under the Met's management? If it was just renting the venue, suggest saying Metropolitan Opera House (note the pipe).
  • Analysis
  • I really don't have much to say, I am not a musical expert. There were no glaring sentence structure problems that I could see.

Briefer than usual, either you anticipate my concerns or I'm getting bored. Look forward to the FAC.--Wehwalt (talk) 23:53, 20 May 2010 (UTC)

Bit of both, probbaly. Anyway, thanks for the review and the suggestions (no comment means taken on board). I like at least a week at PR (preferably longer) in the hope of attracting more comments, but the music fraternity, with the honourable exception of Tim, seems to have scarpered. I live in hope. Brianboulton (talk) 20:38, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

Ruhrfisch comments Sorry to be slow on this - looks very good so I have only minor quibbles.

  • I would translate Veni creator spiritus (Come creator spirit? Come spirit of creation?), probably in the lead, or if not there, on first mention in the text
  • I would link Scherzo and Adagio (Adagio may be better linked to wikt:Adagio) in the Composition section
  • I would also link or translate Caritas there
  • Would it make sense to add "to music" in ahler had a long-standing ambition to set the end of the Faust epic [to music?], "and to set it quite differently from other composers who have made it saccharine and feeble."[12][n 2]
  • Is there anything that can be said about the number of stringed instruments in the Orchestra section? Seems odd not to mention them outside of the possible doubling
    • Unfortunately, no. Scores do not normally give numbers for strings sections, and this is no exception. Strings normally account for around two-thirds of the complete orchestra - but that's my empirical observation, and has no place here. Brianboulton (talk) 18:55, 27 May 2010 (UTC)
  • Plural woodwinds? Mahler recommended that in very large halls, the first row of woodwind[s?] should be doubled and that numbers in the strings should also be augmented.[19][20] Might be AE vs BE
    • Definitely not plural as far as BE is concerned; it would be like referring to the brass section as the "brasses", which you wouldn't do. Brianboulton (talk) 18:55, 27 May 2010 (UTC)
  • Would it help to translate here to Mitchell describes Part I as resembling a giant motet, and argues that a key to its understanding is to read it as Mahler's attempt to emulate the polyphony of Bach's great motets, specifically Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied [(Sing to the Lord a new song)].[49]
  • There are also some Latin phrases / titles that are not translated but should be
    • I think I've fixed all the translations that are necessary. I haven't translated "Gurre-Lieder", or the name of the hall where the premiere was played, but I think that's about all I've left. Brianboulton (talk) 18:55, 27 May 2010 (UTC)
  • There is a sentence in structure The symphony's key is, for Mahler, unusually stable, remaining centred on E-flat throughout.[44] which seems a bit confusing when later discussions on various key changes occur - perhaps this could be modified to something like The symphony's key is, for Mahler, unusually stable, remaining centred on E-flat throughout, though some passages are in different keys.[44]

Really all I could find to complain about - great work as usual, flows smoothly and reads well. Let me know when it is at FAC please. Ruhrfisch ><>°° 13:32, 27 May 2010 (UTC)

Thank you for these comments, helpful as always. I've only commented above when I've not taken your suggestions. I'll let you know when it goes to FAC. I shall be "out of it" on Saturday, as I am going to see Romeo and Juliet at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, a rare treat indeed. Brianboulton (talk) 18:55, 27 May 2010 (UTC)
Sounds great - enjoy! I will take care of the backlog update. Ruhrfisch ><>°° 11:47, 28 May 2010 (UTC)

Images should end with a dot. 147.96.76.101 (talk) 15:41, 27 May 2010 (UTC)