Many Satanists mark today’s seasonal pivot point, feeling simpatico with our homeworld’s continuing seasonal cycles. In the Northern Hemisphere, Spring arrives, succeeding Winter’s torpor with a renewed, verdant surging. In the Southern Hemisphere, Autumn soothes after the scorching Summer months.
Here in the haunted Hudson Valley, Winter was mostly free of snow, though these last couple of weeks brought several major storms. At last, the snow is vanishing and the bulbs have begun awakening, pushing their way into the stimulating sunlight, delighting us with their vigor. Always such a joy when our garden revivifies!
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was, during his life, one of the world’s great conductors of both symphonic and operatic repertoire, from Europe to the USA. He was also known as a composer, but his works were primarily controversial symphonic behemoths that were often misunderstood. He said, regarding his compositions, “His time would come,” and he was correct. His works are now performed and recorded vigorously, and are considered one of the great standard bodies of symphonies by which conductors and orchestras are measured. His expressively dramatic, deeply emotional style of writing has touched people around the globe, and he is considered along with Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Mozart, and Bruckner as one of the greatest of symphonists.
When composing his first symphony at the age of 27-28, he initially considered it to be a tone poem in symphonic form, and it had five movements. He referenced earlier compositions for this work, and the one titled Blumine—which offers a dreamy, spring-like atmospheric celebration of flora with a lovely solo trumpet—was eventually dropped to bring the work to the standard four movement pattern which most symphonies then followed. Mahler had decided to emphasize that the work should be considered an abstract expression, rather than a programmatic work, as is the case with tone poems/symphonic poems written by Liszt and Richard Strauss. However, the heaven-storming finale makes reference to themes from the earlier movements, and material from Blumine serves as a calming respite before the final mighty victory is achieved.
For those familiar with the standard four movement version, the Blumine andante movement makes for a refreshing revelation, and its just under 8 minute timing offers the proper sensibility for the first day of Spring. Hear Simon Rattle conducting it with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
The entire first version of this symphony has been reconstructed, and you can hear it conducted by Sybille Werner and the Mahler Orchestra Toblach. This work is an enthralling journey, with its sense of Nature’s mystery in the first movement, then the romantic Blumine, followed by an earthy scherzo. Next, an ironic funeral march, based on a tune you’ll likely recognize, was inspired by an image of the forest animals bearing a huntsman to his grave. The last movement begins with violent stormy passages and builds ultimately to an extraordinarily triumphant conclusion—the vision of a young composer making his place in in the world of symphonic composition. It is worth your time to give it a listen. Much film music owes a great debt to Mahler’s brilliant compositions, and I’m certain you’ll understand that after experiencing his Symphony No. 1.
May you all seize this glorious day and its enchanting night to celebrate the wonders of Nature, as we all are part of its boundless mysteries.
—Magus Peter H. Gilmore