So next up is what could (arguably) be described as Mahler’s least popular work. If I was doing a true ranking from my least favourite to my most favourite Mahler symphony, I would probably put this one at the bottom, but I didn’t want to start with this one because that would have made it a bit of a rough listening experience for anyone new joining in.
However, if you made it through the Mahler 5 (which is the other Mahler symphony that the 7 most resembles), you’ll probably find this a lot easier to listen to, because you will be familiar to some degree with Mahler’s sound world.
And even then, “least popular” is a bit of a loaded term, because it makes it sound like it’s boring from beginning to end. It’s totally not. There are some amazing moments in the Mahler 7 (especially in the first movement) and if you want a big money’s-worth orchestral sound, you are going to get it with this piece.
However, it does seem harder to find a connection between the different movements and what they’re doing. And it’s pretty long (but what Mahler symphony isn’t?)
But the thing that seems to cause the most controversy, without fail, is the finale. It’s a 20-minute long, very brassy affair that is relentlessly chirpy and still encourages much debate among the Mahler crowd. Was Mahler really feeling this happy? Was he writing a send-up of happy music for ironic purposes? Either way, it can be difficult to know what to make of it – but you can make your own mind up when we get to it.
Here is a brief overview of the movements and what to expect:
Movement I – a long, sombre movement that turns into a gallop, but then has an amazing oasis of calm in the middle.
Movement II – a swaggering march
Movement III – a creepy little thing that wouldn’t be too out-of-place in a Halloween special
Movement IV – an exercise in Viennese schmaltz
Movement V – the grand finale from hell
So see you in a couple of days, and we’ll get started. And if anyone more knowledgeable wants to drop by and explain the coherency of the Mahler 7 to me, I won’t complain at all …