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The secret to playing Mahler naked

Mahler’s fifth symphony opens with a solo trumpet. For twenty seconds, the musician is sounding out, naked and alone, in a silent orchestra.

How does he or she find the courage and concentration to deliver a passage that can make or break a symphony?

Chicago psychotherapist Gerald Stein has found the secret. It’s two initials: TP.

Read on here.



(The soloist here is Mireia Farrés of the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra; h/t Donald Clarke)

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  1. James Brinton says:

    I’ve wondered about this very thing for decades, noticing how often recorded performances have clams in those first few bars. Not all of them, but many, and it really does have to be done right or the performance (or rather our mental/emotional approach to it) can be soured.
    It’s one hell of a responsibility.

  2. Can someone give me a recommendation for a recording of Mahler’s Fifth? I’ve got Tennstedt’s studio version and it just isn’t cutting it for me and I’d like to acquire a recording I can really sink my teeth into. I’ve heard great things about Barbirolli’s and Gatti’s versions. What’s your favorite?

    • Tennstedt, live.

    • Berliner Philharmoniker, Claudio Abbado (437 789-2)
      Your welcome.

      • Ah, yes, the one with the cover showing Claudio holding the book. Thank you! That one is live as well, and I’m seeing a pattern here–perhaps the “naked trumpet” positive thinking works best before a live audience. It looks like I’ll be getting more than one live recording of the 5th.

      • Orin O'Brien says:

        Dear Peter, Why not try Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic’ s Mahler 5th, recorded in 1968 concurrent with their 5 week European tour. The legendary William Vacchiano was playing principal trumpet then. That recording also has a very beautiful slow movement.

    • harold braun says:

      Well,there are many.Barenboim with the CSO in Cologne(with the legendary Bud Herseth in his 76th year,I was there and he got more applause than Barenboim;unforgettable).MTT with SFS for me is the best all round recording(fabulous solo by then interim principal trumpet Bill Williams).The new Pittsburgh Symphony recording under the wonderful Manfred Honeck has also a lot going for it(George Vosburgh’s trumpet work is simply awe inspiring,and Principal horn Bill Caballero for me ranks among the three top players in the world).
      I love very much Jimmy Levine’s 1977 recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra,especially Frank Kaderabek’s vibrato heavy,singing trumpet,
      Trumpet wise,Ozawa/BSO (solo trumpet:Charles Schlueter) is also terrific,albeit Ozawa’s conducting for me is a bit bland in some places.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        These may all be examples for “terrific” trumpet playing as such, but are they what Mahler actually had in mind here? Probably not. The instrument he wrote for has a much softer, rounder sound than any of the above trumpet players display, especially in piano in the lower register, and that gives the opening a much more melancholic expression in the first bars than the kind of bravura-for-its-own-sake playing so loved by American trumpet players. But this is a funeral march, not a trumpet concerto.

    • James Brinton says:

      I don’t think you can go too far wrong with this recording. Tennstedt was superb in the hall, and the Boston SO would play their hearts out for him. This is with the London Phil, and these musicians seem willing to go the limit for him too.

  3. The woman in the picture is Barcelona’s Principal Trumpet, Mireia Farres. As you can see here, she plays the Mahler 5 solo effortlessly, in high heels and perfectly coiffed, no less!

    • harold braun says:

      Wow,that girl rocks! Sure among the best ever!Does she play a Monette?Who did she study with?Fantastic!!!Thanks for posting!!!

    • James Brinton says:

      She’s very, very good. I do wish they had taken the limiters out of the audio. Compressed climaxes aren’t what Mahler had in mind. Still, it remains one of the most dramatic openings of any symphony.

  4. bratschegirl says:

    Heard San Francisco do it just last season, MTT conducting. Mark Inouye was jaw-droppingly magnificent. It was a splendid performance overall, but I truly can’t imagine a better rendition of that opening.

  5. One must follow Mark Gould’s (former Principal Trumpet, MET Opera) “Way of the Blade”…”talking to God”…there is a training video here…

  6. There will be a DVD available soon with Gewandhaus & Chailly; they did it very nicely recently in Vienna.

  7. Why does any conductor feel the least obligation to actually beat time during the opening of this solo?

  8. Best Mahler 5ths
    Abbado – Berlin Philharmonic
    Levin – Philadelphia Orhcestra
    Haitink – Berlin Philharmonic
    Chially – Concertgebow
    Abbado – Chicago Symphony

  9. Paul piotrowicz says:

    I think so many of you are getting a little to caught up in your pretentious evaluations. Music is supposed to be played from the soul and with that comes emotion. Now taking a piece written on a piano to be played by a trumpet is the same as writing a piece on drums and asking a flute to play it. Stop over analyzing what a performer does or doesn’t do and enjoy what is given. To think this 20 seconds can make or break an orchestra is absurd and you have no value for what music actually is, which is communication to the soul.

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