Gustav Mahler remains one of the greatest creators of symphonic cycle. He has completed development of the symphony form, and led it to the final results. In his works he was referring to folk and historical music, but one source of influences was always on top. This was work of Johann Sebastian Bach. Mahler was keen of musical output of the author of Kunst der Fuge. He was considering of connections between his own style and Bach’s creative attitude. He has to say that „in Bach, the vital cells of music are united as the world is in God”. It is interesting how much Mahler is Bach alike. The same what was Bach’s Kunst der Fuge for baroque polyphony, Mahler’s works mean for 19th century form of symphony.
In 1909 in New York, working on his Ninth Symphony, Mahler compiled and rearranged Suite consisting of four parts taken from two Bach’s Orchestral Suites. Some critics say this work remains one more Mahler’s sketch of symphonic cycle, but it was more his contribution to the promotion of great baroque composer in symphonic repertoire. In first decades of 20th century there were not too many baroque works in repertoire of symphonic orchestras. And what was even worst, there were virtually no orchestras specialized in playing baroque music. This was cultural background for many arrangements of baroque music, and many of this was just automatic transcriptions.
|Rozhdestvensky – Suites by Bach-Mahler and Janáček-Talich (1977)|
Mahler was aware of difficulties and esthetic problems he has to solve. He wrote: “Instead of genuine Bach we are often offered a mere skeleton. Performers simply throw away the chords which make the music so rich and full of substance, as if Bach had written the bass part without any sense and purpose. But it must be played, and what a tremendous roar is produced then by the surging waves of chords!” Development of period instruments performances caused that not only pure transcriptions but also the creative developments of composers like Mahler and Busoni became rarely performed. It is worth devoting more attention to the album recorded in 1977 by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky with Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1984 this album has been republished in US as audiocassette by Vox/Turnabout label.