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Classical 101

OSU Music Professor Arved Ashby's New Book on Mahler

Moritz Nahr

“Mahler is very extravagant. Mahler is in your face. Mahler is really too much!”–Arved Ashby

Too much of a good thing is wonderful. Just ask Arved Ashby, professor of music and chair of the Department of Musicology at The Ohio State University. Ashby is the author of the new book "Experiencing Mahler: A Listener's Companion."

Credit Rowman and Littlefield

It’s designed for the Mahler listener who wants to know more. There is a lot of musical context, “sign posts” to Leonard Bernstein’s iconic series of recordings with the New York Philharmonic, and plenty of dry wit.

What’s the appeal of this intense, mysterious composer who died at fifty in 1911?

In trying to explain, Ashby describes his own journey from child record buyer “in a small Wisconsin town” to adult Mahler geek and author.

A book like this succeeds if it leads the reader back to the music. I put this book down every few pages because I had to listen. Then I went back and read some more, listened some more, and reacquainted myself with the father of music in the twentieth century, a potent link to a time gone by.

Mahler was long in arriving in our concert halls. Bernstein insisted on conducting Mahler symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic, Mahler’s own orchestra.  “Impossible!” cried the Viennese. Bernstein said, “Very possible. You have never understood Mahler until now.”

That was fifty years ago. Mahler had been dead for decades. It took some time, but Mahler’s music is here to stay.

If you still need an introduction, this will do nicely:

Or this. Who can resist the angels singing in heaven?

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.