Monday, October 26, 2009

What Deems Taylor said about Mahler

Looking through a recent American Record Guide, I came across a brief negative review by Christopher Chaffee of new music by Jacco Muller (in typical ARG style, they didn't even give his first name), in which the reviewer wrote "Hearing this music reminds me of what Deems Taylor said about Mahler" and gave a paraphrase of the following:
Prune it down until nothing is left save Mahler's musical ideas and the amount of development that they are worth, and the Ninth Symphony would last about twenty minutes. -- Some day, some real friend of Mahler's will do just that... take a pruning knife and reduce his works to the length that they would have been if the composer had not stretched them out of shape; and then the great Mahler war will be over.
That was in 1932, but Taylor had a long antipathy towards Mahler. Here's a rather more direct assault, from a 1923 review of the Seventh Symphony as conducted by Willem Mengelberg with the New York Philharmonic:
Merely because Mahler wrote a symphony one and one-half hours long, scoring it for a mammoth orchestra and had it played last night in a large hall by a first-class orchestra under a first-class conductor -- granted these facts, we still fail to see why we should devote much precious space to saying that we found the work to be emphatically the most stupid piece of music that we ever heard.

1 comment:

Michael Cook said...

That's very interesting. Taylor wasn't usually so bluntly critical. Usually more witty, as in "she scoops to conquer" about an opera singer. He also was a big Wagner fan, so length alone can't be the issue.

Meanwhile, his translations of bawdy French poetry have recently been published here: