The Spill is all about sharing music, I joined the Spill on day one and since then have had the urge to share with you something that’s been one of the most significant elements of my musical enjoyment: the music of Gustaf Mahler. But I’ve never been confident enough to do it, I’ve frequently thought ‘They wouldn’t be interested’, so years have gone by and nothing’s been achieved. I’ve recently thought about this a lot, I find myself listening to Mahler more and more, almost exclusively in the classical realm and I decided that the one thing of significance that I could offer to Spillers before I leave was a chance to experience what once I experienced, it was something that led to 50 odd years of supreme musical enjoyment.

In about 1964 at the age of 30 I was living in Long Beach California, one sunny Saturday morning I arose only to discover that we didn’t have any cream for the coffee, there was a small store fairly close by so I headed there. En route a saw a young bloke sitting on his lawn with all of his ‘unwanted junk’ spread out and for sale before him, one item caught my eye, a box of vinyl. I sorted through ’em and found several that I wanted and when I asked him how much he said ‘One dollar each’. Turned out he was a radio DJ and got loads of free albums and this was how he got rid of them. I took another quick scan and saw a Columbia box set of Mahler’s 1st, 6th and 9th by the NY Philharmonic with Leonard Bernstein, a relatively unknown back then, ‘How about this one’ I asked waving it at him, same price, one dollar!
Best musical purchase I ever made in my life, it introduced me to Mahler of whom I knew nothing but specifically to the 1st Symphony which in various formats I’ve listened to probably hundreds of times over the years. And the 1st led me to all of Mahler’s ten symphonies which I’ve now been collecting since that day and I still have that first album.

And now we have CD’s, DVD’s, Blu Ray, live broadcasts and hundreds of versions of his 10 symphonies by orchestras from around the world, plus we have youtube! What a wonderful feature youtube’s turned out to be, based on it’s primitive music video concept nine years ago, who could have anticipated that it would evolve into such a significant giant.
And better yet we have Claudio Abbado, a conductor who died earlier this year who devoted his life to Mahler’s music and to creating the perfect orchestra to perform it, the Lucern Festival Orchestra comprised of the finest musicians from orchestras worldwide who committed their summer holidays to performing with him for the love of Mahler.
And in addition to all that we have the Guardian’s wonderful classical music critic, Tom Service. If any of this sounds interesting to you, you should read this piece by Tom re. Abbado and Mahler:

What I’d like to suggest is that you quit whatever you’re doing and relax and devote the next hour to something that might be life changing, Mahler’s Symphony No.1 by the Lucern Festival Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado. You get the best seat in the house and can clearly see and hear what every instrument is doing, it’s a wonderful experience. If you watch via an internet link use headphones if possible, the clarity is significant. Here it is, enjoy.


  1. I have listened to the first movement and am well into the second movement without really being engaged. A bit austere, too much in the classical yoke for my tastes. I tend to like my symphonies to tell a gripping story, be programmatic if you like, and be stuffed with enticing, preferably wild tunes, Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique, is by far my favourite listen. My responses to most things are visceral, and this is probably too cerebral for me, but I’m glad to have had a pretext for a listen to Mahler, as I’ve never really got much beyond the Adagietto before (it’s also postponed getting the lawn-mower out which is also to the good). Cheers.

  2. I am listening to Symphony No. 1 ‘Titan’ right now –
    as I have my morning cup of tea..
    Shhhh…will get back to you….
    Leonard Bernstein / Vienna Philharmonic

    • I have vinyl of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1, but had put it away years ago. I can re-listen when the house is quiet, get to know it.

      (One of my favs of Berstein is Sheherazade).

      • I’m on to the next movement.
        It grows on you. Bernstein, for no. 1 -then to Claudio Abbado. On to the next movement now, between all the things I have to do.
        I listen in the evening, in my down time,
        It grows on you…

  3. Mr Munday is very fond of Mahler but it seems I gave him all the CDs! I like Mahler’s music too, but in a general rather than a completely enthused way. Will listen to the above clip when I’m sitting in the garden, thank you.

  4. Well, I decided to take up the challenge and give it a listen – I had to break it up into 3 parts over several hours as I kept getting called away from my computer.

    I don’t think I’ve ever deliberately listened to any more than 2 or 3 minutes of classical music before and I’m although I’m not about to become a devotee, I did enjoy it quite a lot (I thought I recognised some parts of it – but was probably imagining it) and would definitely listen to it again – thanks for the horizon expansion!

    • Well, the first 17 minutes are rather thrilling, aren’t they? I should get on with some work but will come back to the rest…

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