LABELS: Winter & Winter
WORKS: Ich bin der welt abhanden gekommen
PERFORMER: A cinematic biography of Gustav Mahler: by Franz Winter
CATALOGUE NO: 915 003-7
Not so much a biography, more a whistle-stop tour of key points in Mahler’s life. There’s quite a bit about his family background and upbringing, then he’s suddenly in his first musical job, and rises quickly to the heights of running the Vienna State Opera. Along the way, there’s his affair with the soprano Anna von Mildenburg, his marriage to Alma Schindler, and the death of his elder daughter.
The visual material consists of a mixture of archive photographs, letters and manuscripts, with modern footage of places associated with Mahler – the village where he was born, his houses and the surrounding countryside, various locations in Vienna. All the images are panned in a very leisurely fashion, matched by the laid-back narration in German by Franz Winter, and in English by Uri Caine.
It’s Caine’s own take on Mahler that provides the soundtrack, and it’s often more interesting than what’s happening on screen. I ended up thinking that I’d rather just listen to the CDs, which have been out for a while, and hear how Caine exposes Mahler’s roots in folk music, military marches, and above all the Jewish tradition.
To hear a cantor taking over the decorative oboe line of ‘Der Abschied’ from Das Lied von der Erde is a forcible reminder of that, and there’s a real creativity here which tells you much more about Mahler’s music than the film does about his life. The packaging has great potential for scratching the playing surface of the disc. Martin Cotton