Mahler's fifth symphony goes online
The autograph manuscript can now be viewed online, thanks to a New Year splashout by the Morgan Library (formerly the Pierpoint Morgan). This formidable institution, once the private library of New York’s most powerful financier, conserves the final drafts of three Mahler symphonies, the second, fifth and ninth. The fifth is the only one actually owned by the Morgan, the other two are placed there on deposit by private collectors.
Studying all three scores side by side, as I was once privileged to do for an afternoon, it was possible to see the growing confidence in Mahler’s handwriting, alongside a constant, fretful concern for minute detail. The sheer energy that went into writing his music bursts off the page, unmistakably Mahler Compared to the icy, taut graphology of Igor Stravinsky or the magnifying-glass script of Pierre Boulez, it proclaims a rumbustious individuality along with a complete unconcern for neat appearance.
You can learn an awful lot about a composer just by admiring the score, before you attempt to read a line of music.
Here’s the opening page of Mahler’s Fifth, inscribed to my beloved Almscherl’ whom he met when he was halfway through the work and married before it was finished.
And here’s the opening of the Adagietto, the most famous ambiguity Mahler ever wrote:
The images appear courtesy of the Morgan Library. You can study the full symphony here
. Thanks to Alex Ross
for bringing the online initiative to general attention.
Morgan’s meddlesome role in Mahler’s US career is touched upon in Why Mahler?