Bernstein Rehearses Mahler

Ludwig van Beethoven died in 1827, and he created a profound impact on the development of music. Gustav Mahler was born just 33 years later, in 1860. While a great deal of Mahler’s career was devoted to conducting Operas and symphonic concerts, he also became an influential composer later in his brief lifetime.

There is no doubt that the spirit of Beethoven was connected with Mahler. Gustav Mahler frequently conducted the Beethoven symphonies; in fact, Mahler’s favorite was Beethoven’s 4th. One can hear certain similarities in the opening of Mahler’s Fist Symphony to the slow introduction of the Symphony #4 of Beethoven.

I am sharing this little “talk” with you, because of what follows: In the video below, you can listen to a very interesting rehearsal of the first movement of Mahler’s Symphony #5, conducted by Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic.


One would think that the VPO has Mahler in its DNA, because he conducted this orchestra in the late 1800’s, and an interpretive tradition might have been established there. Not so. The players back then considered Mahler’s music to be trash. Perhaps this was so because he was born to a Jewish family. Or perhaps the reason was, because Mahler’s compositions were frequently atonal. The public preferred the conservative music of Haydn more readily.

If you understand German, this video is particularly interesting for you. One can hear Bernstein’s acquaintance with the language, yet he struggles with it. His frustration is visible, as he tries to impress the orchestra with the performance style he wants. You hear him say: “Das isst kein Mahler”… (This is not Mahler…)

Bernstein conducts the opening of Mahler’s Fifth, which opens with a trumpet solo, which can recall the opening of Beethoven Symphony #5.

Here is Bernstein. Even if you do not speak German, if you love Bernstein, and love Mahler’s music, this video is for you:

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