Sunday, January 01, 2006

Mahler and Me: Das Lied von der Nacht

I like Gustav Mahler's music. That is no great secret. I am waiting anxiously for Pierre Boulez to record the 2nd and 8th to complete his cycle. Of all Mahler's works, though, I like the 7th and 8th least. I spend most of my free time, so to speak, with the 2nd and 6th. However, I recently bought Pierre Boulez' recording of the 7th. Before that, I had done with Abbado's Chicago record.

Despite my notorious Boulez fanboy-ism, I have long since dispensed with any attempt to defend the conductor to his detractors. Pierre Boulez has been the same person since 1947, and I doubt he plans on changing soon. I am not unreserved in my praise for Boulez, as there are a few of his recordings that could have done with some temperance (cf. the 1970 Bayreuth Parsifal). However, despite his vociferous detractors (such as A.C. Douglas), his Mahler is my favorite.

So, what happens when my favorite living conductor meets my least favorite Mahler score? Not much. There isn't much to happen. That's the thing about Boulez, his hyper-analytical style creates a sort of transparency. Now the rhetoric behind this transparency is problematic, but any Wagnerite worth his salt (especially a penitent one) can separate art from rhetoric. The Song of the Night is what it is, a complicated work that defies my attempts to categorize and control it. Boulez just plays it straight.

Derrida forgive me for that last pun.


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