Remembering Mahler

May 18, 2011

Today is the 100th anniversary of the untimely death of Gustav Mahler. If someone had told me ten years ago that I would be marking this day with real sadness I would have denied it, but Mahler’s music, which at one time I dismissed as bloated and hysterical past toleration, finally won me over, and I now confess myself a devotee.

One of his most touching songs, heartbreaking in its melancholic beauty, is Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen. Given its theme, hearing it today is most fitting. Here is Janet Baker, from a famous 1969 recording with John Barbirolli leading the Hallé Orchestra.

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen,
Mit der ich sonst viele Zeit verdorben,
Sie hat so lange von mir nichts vernommen,
Sie mag wohl glauben, ich sei gestorben.

Es ist mir auch gar nichts daran gelegen,
Ob sie mich für gestorben hält,
Ich kann auch gar nichts sagen dagegen,
Denn wirklich bin ich gestorben der Welt.

Ich bin gestorben dem Weltgewimmel,
Und ruh’ in einem stillen Gebiet.
Ich leb’ allein in mir und meinem Himmel,
In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied.

***

I am lost to the world
with which I used to waste so much time,
It has heard nothing from me for so long
that it may very well believe that I am dead!

It is of no consequence to me
Whether it thinks me dead;
I cannot deny it,
for I really am dead to the world.

I am dead to the world’s tumult,
And I rest in a quiet realm!
I live alone in my heaven,
In my love and in my song!
(Translation: Emily Ezust)

(Thanks to Alex Ross for the picture above.)

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