Saturday, 7 July 2012

Mahler's Flower Maiden


As it's Gustav Mahler's 152nd birthday today (and he doesn't look a day over 121), I thought I might present him with a bouquet of flowers, his Blumine

Blumine is the 'Flower Piece' movement discarded from the composer's much-loved First Symphony and rediscovered only in 1966.  If you fancy a bit of well-written music journalism, the still mysterious history of Blumine and the unsettled questions surrounding Mahler's reasons for rejecting it are aired by Jeffrey Gantz here

As for the contentious issue of whether the piece should be restored to the symphony - as it sometimes is in performances and recording - I have to say that I prefer my Blumine to be planted as either a separate movement or as an encore. It's far too good to neglect though and is anything but sugary (as some of its harshest critics have described it). 

Blumine is a lyrical, romance-style piece with an attractive melody played initially by a solo trumpet over a murmuring string accompaniment (with horn support). To me it's plainly a love song and this tune sounds like a man's outpouring of tender passion. The strings carry the first paragraph to a warm, suspension-soaked conclusion before the melody yields over a soft tremolo and the melancholy middle section, with its plaintive woodwind melodies - offshoots of the trumpet tune -, carries us out into the Austrian countryside. The first theme then re-emerges and a short but expressive climaxes carries us to further soft, warm restatements of the melody led by the strings before the trumpet and various other soloists usher in the lovely string ascent to the heavens in the closing bars. The scoring is as well-judged as you would expect from the composer of the familiar First Symphony

I must say that I've got a real soft spot for Blumine. It seems from reading Mr. Gantz, that Mahler might have had one too.

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