Beethoven or Mahler – which did more to change your life?

Beethoven or Mahler – which did more to change your life?


norman lebrecht

April 10, 2011

This sun-drenched Sunday afternoon, within easy reach of Hampstead Heath, I shall be having a heated discussion with the pianist Peter Donohoe on which of the two composers, Ludwig or Gus, makes more of an impact on our lives today.

Peter is probably the cleverest pianist ever born with English as his mother tongue – go on, debate that among yourselves – and his views on Beethoven have doubtless matured since I saw him last. As have mine on Mahler.
Anyhow, we’re going to have fun at The Red Hedgehog at 3pm. You can, too.
Details below.


  • Oh dear – what a pity I’m not in London….AND I live near Hampstead Heath!!
    I am in Stroud, looking after Sarah Connolly’s cats – who are very lovely, but I would also have loved to hear this discussion.
    NL: If there’s a podcast, I’ll post it.

  • Tom Myron says:

    Greetings from Northampton, MA, USA. I hope you don’t mind if I take the title of your post as a direct question. As it happens, I’ve just started work on my 3rd symphony (for the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra) and this exact question has been on my mind.
    As a child, hearing the snippet of the Scherzo from Beethoven’s 9th that was used as the theme for the NBC Nightly News made me realize that I wanted to learn how to write music. In the time that has followed my understanding of Beethoven’s achievement of introducing humanistic and narrative elements into the crystalline, abstract architecture of the classical symphony has come to mean a great deal to my own thinking.
    With that in mind, perhaps it’s possible to view Mahler’s work as this aspect of Beethoven’s creative impulse greatly elaborated and developed in terms of depth, directness and scale. As I’ve gotten older, Mahler’s view that his symphonies were his “life” has certainly begun to resonate with me.
    Although I don’t consider myself a Mahler-type composer, professionally I do spend time with his work. I guess I think about him the way I imagine a freelance car designer might think about Henry Ford.
    I also hope that there is a Pod Cast of your discussion. My teacher Nicholas Maw wrote some really wonderful music for Peter Donohoe.