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Episode 80: Chopin and Mahler, a Venn Diagram

Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op. 45

rc-mahler-200They're minting Mahler coins in the Czech Republic and Chopin bills in Poland. Mahler is 150; Chopin, 200.

Other than currency and anniversaries, what connects Gustav Mahler — the composer of vast, sprawling orchestral travelogues — with Fryderyk Chopin, a specialist in finely-wrought, dense-as-diamond compositions for just one instrument?

Exile. Perfectionism. Mozart. Mortality.

Exile. “I am three times homeless: a native of Bohemia in Austria; an Austrian among Germans; a Jew throughout the whole world,” lamented Mahler. Chopin, a Pole in Paris, felt twice exiled—from his native land and his mother tongue.

Perfectionism. Mahler: “All that is not perfect down to the smallest detail is doomed to perish.” Chopin: “"Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on."

“Mozart” was among Mahler’s last words. Though Mahler’s funeral was silent, Chopin requested, "Play Mozart in memory of me." And they did.

Mortality. It is hard to imagine two composers more closely linked with the Funeral March than Mahler and Chopin. Both composers were obsessed with death – and their own mortality, to the extent that Mahler used his own irregular heartbeat in the requiem-like last movement of his 9th Symphony.

This may explain their ultimate connection…a serene, otherworldly musicality that seems to float from this life to the hereafter… - Jennifer Foster


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Radio Chopin Episode 80: Chopin and Mahler, a Venn Diagram

Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op. 45

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