Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sunday at the Beach with Gustav

Sunday looks to be a beautiful day, and what spells out "perfect beach day" better than immersing yourself in the life and music of the man who battles Igor Stravinsky and Anton von Webern for the title of Greatest 20th Century Composer, the pride of Kalischt: Gustav Mahler.

Start with the recently published fourth and final volume of Henry-Louise de la Grange's monumental biography of the composer, A New Life Cut Short. At 1,788 pages , there's over a page for each day of the last three and a half years of Mahler's life. If you head to the sand early, you might get as far as that first performance of Tristan at the Met by the time the sun disappears behind the Chicago skyline.

And then, as a soundtrack for your reading, fire up the browser on your new i-Phone and head to the BBC-3 website, where you can hear the last five concerts from a complete cycle of Mahler symphonies with Valery Gergiev leading the London Symphony. You can stream the broadcasts up to a week after their initial airing, which means you have until tomorrow to hear the Gergiev/LSO Resurrection, with similar contracting windows of opportunity for the 5th (coupled with a performance of the Karetnikov #4), the 7th (with Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony), The Symphony of the Thousand (from St. Paul's Cathedral, with a decay time on the final note that seems to last until the following Tuesday), and the 9th, preceded by the Adagio from the unfinished 10th.

A New Life Cut Short, $140.00. iPhone 3G, $199.00 to $434.00, plus monthly service plan. Spending a sunny Sunday on Chicago's beautiful lakefront with a few thousand very close neighbors and Gustav Mahler's astonishing life and world-encompassing symphonies of joy, foreboding, despair, love and inexhaustible longing: priceless.

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