The Mahler Symphony I would pick for beginners is the First, composed in 1888 when he was 28 years old. It has melodic appeal, it evokes the sounds of the natural world with coloristic sonorities from the woodwinds and double basses to heighten brooding, spooky tension and finally it utilizes brass and percussion for blazing crescendos.
I first encountered the piece via the 1962 Boston Symphony recording under then newly-appointed Music Director Erich Leinsdorf (1912-1993), a very inspired performance with the orchestra in peak form. A number of other distinguished recordings are available, such as those of Seiji Ozawa, Jascha Horenstein, Sir Adrian Boult, Hans Rosbaud, Sir Georg Solti etcs. but this Leinsdorf remains a first choice.
It is also accessible on YouTube.
A couple of quotes
As the world turns with what is perhaps rightfully perceived as extra stress, I am a bit haunted by a couple of quotes.
First the 19th century author of travel books, Richard Burton once wrote, “Peace is the dream of the wise. War is the history of mankind.”
The main character of James Joyce’s difficult to read masterpiece, Ulysses, states that “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awaken.”
On a more cheerful note, George Bernard Shaw recalled, “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”
Harry Truman gently but tartly rebuked the cynics, “A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.”
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