Reading Mahler

Reading Mahler

German Culture and Jewish Identity in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna

Carl Niekerk

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Examines literary, philosophical, and cultural influences on Mahler's thought and work from the standpoint of the composer's position in German-Jewish culture.
Gustav Mahler's music is more popular than ever, yet few are aware of its roots in German literary and cultural history in general, and in fin-de-siècle Viennese culture in particular. Taking as its point of departure the many references to literature, philosophy, and the visual arts that Mahler uses to illustrate the meaning of his music, Reading Mahler helps audiences, critics, and those interested in musical and cultural history understand influences on Mahler's music and thinking that may have been self-evident to middle-class Viennese a hundred years ago but are much more obscure today. It shows that Mahler's oeuvre, despite its reliance on texts and images from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, is far more indebted to fin-de-siècle modernism and to an eclectic, proto-avantgardist agenda than has been previously realized. Furthermore, Reading Mahler is the first book to make Mahler's position within German-Jewish culture its analytical center. It also probes Mahler's problematic but often overlooked relationship with the musical and textual legacy of Richard Wagner. By integrating newer approaches in humanistic research - cultural studies, gender studies, and Jewish studies - Reading Mahler exposes the composer's critical view of German cultural history and offers a new understanding of his music.

Carl Niekerk is Professor in the Department of German, the Program in Comparative and World Literature, and the Program in Jewish Culture and Society at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Literature, Philosophy, and Images in Mahler's Music
Titan: Symphony of an Anti-Hero
Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Rediscovering the "Volk"
Nietzsche and the Crisis of German Culture
Rembrandt and the Margins of German Culture
Goethe against German Culture
The Two Faces of German Orientalism
Conclusion: Beyond Mahler
Works Consulted


Thought provoking . . . . Should be a part of all serious academic and public classical music collections. AMERICAN JEWISH LIBRARIES REVIEWS

Although the Mahler literature is extensive and growing, one can find nothing quite like this volume.. Highly recommended. CHOICE

Carl Niekerk's Reading Mahler is a notable addition to the composer's bibliography because it counters conventional images of Mahler as a "nostalgic modernist" or a "neoromanticist" . . . . Niekerk investigates Mahler in a rewarding and challenging way. His study also provides readers with a solid grounding in texts and sources that are not always considered in the field of Mahler studies. MUSICA JUDAICA ONLINE REVIEWS

Riveting . . . . [A] compelling book, an example of interdisciplinary scholarship at its finest. It is a major contribution to our understanding of this pivotal epoch in Western civilization and represents an invaluable resource for any future research into the period as a whole. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW [Andrew Barker]

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