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Why Mahler?: How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed Our World
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Why Mahler?: How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed Our World

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  131 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Although Gustav Mahler was a famous conductor in Vienna and New York, the music that he wrote was condemned during his lifetime and for many years after his death in 1911. “Pages of dreary emptiness,” sniffed a leading American conductor. Yet today, almost one hundred years later, Mahler has displaced Beethoven as a box-office draw and exerts a unique influence on both pop ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by Pantheon (first published January 1st 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 326)
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Mike
Overall I enjoyed this book: it gives some insight into Mahler the man as well as into the symphonies in particular. But it's all very much the author's viewpoint, his bias.
We have a radio programme here in New Zealand in which the compiler presents a bunch of alternative type music each week. He hypes up each track to such a degree that you think, 'This must be superb'. Almost invariably it's tosh, with occasional interesting things done at a less than top level.
Lebrecht is a bit like this, tho
...more
Jorge
Después de la muerte de Gustav Mahler su obra pareció ir cayendo gradualmente en un proceso de desinterés y olvido. Sin embargo a partir de los años sesentas del siglo XX, su obra nuevamente volvió a emerger desde las profundidades de la música hasta convertirla en una obra recurrente y amadísima por muchos.

A partir de entonces se empezó a crear una especie de frenesí entre los conocedores de la música clásica hasta elevarla en uno de los más grandes altares que la música les haya erigido a los
...more
Aeron
It's funny. At one point towards the end of this book, Lebrecht criticizes previous biographies of Mahler for being too pro-Alma (Mahler's wife). This book errs in the opposite direction. It's clear that the author can't stand Alma, and perhaps it was justified, but just based on this narrative, I'm not convinced. For example, he describes how men were attracted to her using words like, "they could sense her sexual availability." What? So the fact that men find her attractive is her fault? She m ...more
Michael
I suppose it does my heart good to see that some people liked this book. Diversity, difference of opinion, different perspectives, they are all good things; it's just unfortunate these ideals are wrapped around such an awful, awful book.

Lebrecht is so pompous, self-serving and downright wrong I feel like spiking my hair and putting on a Clash record.

I don't know where to begin, do I surface the ridiculous conclusions the author draws with regard to Mahler's religious conversion. Perhaps the mis
...more
Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum
This is a non-fiction book about the great composer, Gustav Mahler, written by Norman Lebrecht. When I read somewhere that the music of Mahler was performed more often than Beethoven, I had to find out more about this man, and this seemed as good a place as any to begin.

Mahler was born in 1860 and died in 1911, and was a conductor as well as composing music. This book covers Mahler's personal life and music, much of which is very interesting. However; the reader quickly learns that Lebrecht hims
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Tony Gleeson
This book wound up on my to-read shelf not because I'm any kind of a huge Mahlerian (I'm not) but because it was written by Norman Lebrecht, who has always shown himself to be an informative, insightful, and highly entertaining writer on the subject of music. He does not disappoint me here, spinning a lively overview of the life of Gustav Mahler and interspersing history and gossip of the day, personal observations and modern-day anecdotes. He's not so high-minded as to skimp on tales of Alma Ma ...more
Brian Robbins
Normally I view reading in the same way that some people view food, the kind who insist on finishing everything on their plate, or I view it in the same way that the Mastermind questioner views his questions - "I've started so I'll finish". However, in this book's case, I'm prepared to make an exception.

It had all the traits I hate most in modern TV documentaries - bitty, skimming & skipping across disciplines, shallow and full of talking-head type generalizations. It did not give a clear, i
...more
Kurtbg
To really get something out of this book you should have some exposure to Gustav Mahler's music. Most likely you wouldn't read this unless you did, but sometimes I pick up books for the heck of it, so no judgements.

The book covers a history of Mahler to help the reader better understand the period Gustav grew up in and participated in as an adult in the mid 1800's to 1911. This is done to enhance the understanding of how Mahler approached writing his symphonies. The book breaks down each of the
...more
Hadrian
Biography heavily tilted by author's obsession. Musical analysis was fun, though, so that balanced it out.
Adam
Mar 23, 2011 Adam rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Adam by: Cinchel
I began excitedly devouring this book as I am quite a huge fan of the music of Gustav Mahler. I have been known to listen to his complete works in the course of 4 or 5 days. I never get sick of his music. There is just so much to grab onto and so much to delve into. After all these years of listening to his music I have managed to, somehow, avoided learning very much more than cursory details about his life.

This book delivered in that fashion, providing me with a good biography of the man and h
...more
Marie Hew


The author really loves Mahler and it comes through in his joyous voice. Lebrecht does a wonderful job blending, history, biography, music theory and period dish that easily held my attention. There is also an annotated listing of Mahler recordings from the banal to must-listen. The best thing about this book is that it inspires you to seek out more about Mahler and his music. Needless to say, Mahler is now frequently on my playlist.
David Sweeney
I love Mahler and was looking for an easy to read biography. This is book is hopelessly flawed as Lebrecht is simply not objective and his analysis is from the perspective of a love sick admirer. This also effects his style of writing. That said if you want to know the bare outline of Mahler's life it is a quick and easy read. The other positive is that your knowledge of music need only be minimal but you must be familiar with all of Mahler's music.
Patrick
The question really should be: Why this book? This volume is nothing more than a rehashing of what has already been said about Mahler, as well as a generous helping of the author's own personal bias, not to mention venom.

Please do not waste your time or money on this book, it is not worth the paper it is printed on. Reading this book reminds me once again of Jean Sibelius statement, "No one has ever erected a statue in honour of a critic."
Johanna Botman
I don't know much about classical music nor about Mahler. I like Mahler's music and wanted to know more about the man and his times.
But this is not the introductory tome that I was looking for. I am finding it tedious and - dare I say it? - boring. Three chapters is enough to make that judgement. I don't think I can read any more of it. I'll just listen to the music instead.
Charles
Being a big fan of Mahler's music I wanted to read Lebrecht's view on why Mahler is so popular. He referred to the once popular idea of the "Mozart effect" and in this book he postulates the "Mahler Effect".

Interesting reading with snippets of information about Mahler's life, music, and conductors such as Leonard Bernstein who the author keeps calling Lenny.
George moffat
Muy interesante, conocer la vida obra, deseos y pasiones de Mahler me abre un panorama completamente nuevo para escuchar su obre
Robert-Jan Van Amstel
A good read to get involved in the complex life of Gustav Mahler. I really liked the personal thoughts of Norman Lebrecht about why he likes the music of Mahler so much. Because of this book I'm more attached to the excellent and deep touching music of Mahler.
Thomas Walsh
I heard my first Mahler Symphony in 1976. It was his 8th "The Symphony of a Thousand." I have never been the same person since that event. It completely changed my life and perspective of the world. That's the theory behind this work: Mahler's music is a catharsis.
Ernest
Written not as a biography but as a personalized and selective view of Mahler's life and works. This makes the book interesting, but also somehow less authoritative. But that's ok, since you know that this is from a Mahler fanboy.
Vicky
Here is a very intense biography about a genius who is still an enigma for many. His short life was filled with tremendous pressure, he accomplished an amazing amount of work and his music confronted and inspired generations.
Conrad
Wonderful, informative read. Explains in detail Mahler's life, but is also surprisingly readable as the author adapts everything Mahler into a very intriguing story. Recommended to all Mahler fans!
Erik
Very gossipy though high-brow. Not a book about Mahler, per se, but why Mahler matters in the 21st century. I loved the CD reviews at the end, though disagree with a few of them.
Josh
Lebrecht's book strikes an odd balance of hagiography and teenage-girl adoration. But hey, he's passionate in his irascibility... just like Mahler.
Elsie Mahler Scharff
Amazing reading this book. Maybe he occupies more of me than I thought! Did you know, Mahler in German means Painter???
Michael
Oct 10, 2011 Michael marked it as to-read
This has gotten such universally disparaging reviews that I know I have to read it. And I like Mahler.
Dan G
Opinionated but sometimes penetrating discussion of Mahler and Jew, composer, and human being.
Alan Yu
I wrote a sort of review of this book on my blog: http://bit.ly/mNBGYI
Robin Fox
Interesting, but quite heavy-going in places
Larry Schwartz
This bears a second reading.
Eva
Informative.
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Norman Lebrecht (born 11 July 1948 in London) is a British commentator on music and cultural affairs and a novelist. He was a columnist for The Daily Telegraph from 1994 until 2002 and assistant editor of the Evening Standard from 2002 until 2009. On BBC Radio 3, he has presented lebrecht.live from 2000 and The Lebrecht Interview from 2006.

He has written twelve books about music, which have been t
...more
More about Norman Lebrecht...
The Song of Names The Life and Death of Classical Music The Maestro Myth: Great Conductors in Pursuit of Power The Game of Opposites: A Novel Who Killed Classical Music?: Maestros, Managers, and Corporate Politics

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