Rare recording of the 1st movement of the Fifth Symphony by Mahler performed by the author

The words of the prominent Austrian composer, teacher and conductor Arnold Schönberg about the Fifth Symphony by Mahler, “I saw your soul naked, completely naked. It stretched in front of me, like a wild mysterious landscape with its frightening abysses and gorges, with lovely joyful lawns and quiet idyllic corners. I conceived it as a spontaneous storm with its horrors and travails, with its enlightening, fascinating rainbow. I felt the struggle for illusions, I saw how positive and malign forces are standing up against each other, I saw how a man beats in agonizing excitement to achieve inner harmony, I felt a person, drama, truth ... "

The Fifth Symphony, written at the turn of the 20th century (1902), is a kind of transitional stage in the Mahler's work. It stands at the turn of two periods. The composer, who can no longer hold on to well-trodden paths, finds the new ones. Mahler until his last days was dissatisfied with this work, for many years returning to the musical material and making numerous and significant changes. In 1911, he completely re orchestrated it.

According to I. Barsova, "The increase of expressive load on musical material entailed new requirements for the orchestral instruments technique, the exploitation of all resources redoubled significantly". This was the key factor of the composition baffling destiny. Mahler himself acknowledged that the Fifth Symphony was very complicated for playing. However, the Fifth Symphony became one of the most performed symphonies by Mahler, subsequent to his First Symphony. 

The first performance of the Fifth Symphony took place on October 18, 1904 in Cologne under the baton of Mahler. The very first record of the composition - only its first movement arranged for piano, the author realized in 1905. Later, the Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg with the Royal Philharmonic Concertgebouw orchestra in 1926 and Bruno Walter with the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra in 1938 recorded Adagietto. The first full-fledged recording was realized again thanks to Bruno Walter in New York in 1947. However, real popularity came to the Fifth Symphony in the 70s, after the release of the movie “Death in Venice” by Luchino Visconti, filled with music by Gustav Mahler.

Rare recording is posted in our Sound Library – the first movement of the Fifth Symphony by G. Mahler performed by the author, recorded from the paper music roll "Welte-Mignon” on the Player piano "Berdux Welte Piano", Valentin Berdux Pianofortefabrik, M. Welte & Söhne G.m.b.H., 1912.
The biography of the composer is in the section "Authors".