Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Inside Mahler's composing hut (video)

Gustav Mahler had three composing huts, as architect Keith Clarke describes in his groundbreaking study, Mahler’s Heavenly Retreats. Mahler had a particular aversion to noise – including birdsong, the barking of his architect’s dog, and the performances of nearby military bands – but also demanded that the servant who brought him his breakfast in one of his huts left via a route that meant Mahler would not see her so his train of thought would be undisturbed. “Mahler’s need for a place away from people and noise, for peace and quiet in which to compose his music, drove him to work away from his family,” says Clarke. “He arranged for the construction of workspaces, buildings built separately from his living quarters and constructed, one after another, in three different locations. They were created for him alone and visitors were not generally welcome.”

Mahler had composing huts at Steinbach (where the video above is shot), not far from Salzburg, where he wrote part of his second and all of his third symphony; Maernigg in southern Austria (symphonies four to eight); and Dobbiaco on the border of Italy and Austria (Das Lied von der Erde, his ninth symphony and sketches for the tenth). “Mahler’s Third, his Nature Symphony, is a celebration of the natural world in all its forms, its beauty, serenity and power, its comic and grotesque,” says Clarke. “The heavenly retreat at Steinbach, perhaps like no other, perfectly served Mahler’s needs. It was a laboratory for his art.” Director Ken Russell also made use of Mahler’s huts in his film on the great composer, including a scene where one of them gets burnt to a crisp.
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