Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ewig... Ewig...

I took this photo in late May 2001. Visiting Mahler's grave wasn't a "pilgrimage", more a way of paying my respects to an individual who, more than anyone else I've never met, has had a profound positive impact on my well-being. Around the world today (or at least in those parts of it that care about Western art music) there will be concerts and other events in honour of this man who for many was a genius and for others just the composer of a bunch of overlong and overwrought symphonies. I don't do reverence very well, and I'm uncomfortable about the cult of Mahler. There's a lesson to be learned from his grave: he's not in the Central Cemetry of Vienna with a monument next to Beethoven, Schubert et al. Instead you must go to a quiet suburb and find this unassuming stone - "Any who come to look for me will know who I was, and the rest do not need to know", to quote from Alma Mahler's book. There's no reason to stand in awe; there's not much room for many people to gather there. Perhaps Mahler's symphonies contain the world, but they speak to me on a personal level. So tonight when others are partaking in communal celebrations that for some may very well border on an act of worship, I'll be doing what I did in Grinzing a decade ago: pause for a while, listen privately to Mahler's music, say a quiet thank you, and move on.

He alighted from his horse and offered his friend the drink of farewell.
He asked him where he was going
And why it had to be so.
He spoke, his voice was muffled:
My friend,
Fortune has not been kind to me in this world!
Where do I go? I go to wander in the mountains.
I seek rest for my lonely heart!
I wander to my homeland, my resting-place.
I will never again roam in the far distance.
My heart is still and awaits its hour!

Everywhere the dear earth
Blossoms in spring and grows green again!
Everywhere and forever the distance shines bright blue!
Forever... forever...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Of course, you've bungled the perspective a bit, given that it's actually 13 miles high.