Second Thoughts

Second Thoughts
By Henry C. Mayer

A Concert Postscript

The most recent Louisville Orchestra Masterworks Concert featured one of the very longest works in Symphonic literature - the 6th or "Tragic" Symphony by Gustave Mahler. It not only requires eighteen additional musicians but it takes eighty minutes to perform. It employs such seldom-used instruments as cow bells, low tubular bells, rattle, birch brush and hammer.

In retrospect, the work's depressive expressions may reveal unspoken anxiety perceived only by the composer, since his wife later wrote it was the most personal piece he wrote. She also suggested that in a way it included intimations of tragic events that would happen later. Moreover, Mahler tended to brood and worry and a lack of self-confidence was a continuing problem for him.

Competition for artistic success in Vienna was remarkably keen; critics were blunt and acid pens very common. It was not the climate in which Mahler could flower, especially since he was an outsider and of Jewish origins to boot. All this whetted his insecurity, and if one's work was significantly different from current expressions, both composers and performers found it hard going. However, Masestro Segal was evidently pleased with the Orchestra's interpretation of this demanding work, as was the audience.