Various Artists

Mahler: The Music of Love

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The music of Gustav Mahler strikes many emotional chords in listeners because his personality was extremely complex and his range of expression was especially wide, even by the standards of late Romanticism. One can hardly listen to one of Mahler's major works without being exposed to the peaks and troughs of his psyche, and the songs and slow movements of the symphonies are often the most revealing parts of his quasi-confessional compositions. Much has been written, for example, about the creation of the Adagietto from the Symphony No. 5, which amounted to a proposal of marriage to Alma Schindler, his future wife. Many of Mahler's works after this "love letter" contain ardent expressions of his emotions for her, usually represented in arching, soaring themes. But the general tone of Mahler's music throughout his career was passionate, even before he met Alma, and his lyrical melodies and reflective adagios contain some of his loveliest music, though not all of it is necessarily amorous. Mahler: The Music of Love is a double-disc collection from the Australian label ABC Classics that brings together some of the most moving passages that Mahler ever wrote, though this is something of a rarity, since his music doesn't lend itself to samplers of easy-to-absorb excerpts. His symphonies are long, complicated affairs, fraught with drama and pathos, so taking movements out of their contexts may give a misleading impression of the composer. Listeners using this album as an introduction should keep an open mind, for this romantically themed compilation presents only one aspect of his work, and not all of the selections fit within the subject of love. With that in mind, casual listeners will find many attractive performances here by the world's leading conductors and orchestras, and the twofer offers more than two and a half hours of enjoyable music. However, anyone who has a deeper interest in Mahler should definitely explore the complete symphonies and song cycles, taking the selections here as a guide.

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