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Chorus Mysticus

I have committed another YouTube Video:

Arguably, one of the most consequential symphonic concerts of the last century took place on the 20th of March, 1959, in London's Royal Albert Hall, when the legendary Jascha Horenstein led the London Symphony Orchestra (among many others) in Gustav Mahler's Eighth Symphony - the so-called "Symphony of a Thousand" (because of the number of performers required to do it justice).

It was an event that did much to kick-start the great revival of Mahler's reputation in the 1960's. You can read the whole story here.

For many years, it was believed that either the BBC had not bothered to tape the performance, or that the tape had been lost. But, recently, it turned out that they had not only taped it, but that they had done so in remarkably good stereo sound. Highly recommended.

My video covers about the last six minutes of the performance - i.e., Mahler's setting of the "Chorus Mysticus" that concludes the second part of Goethe's Faust, and the (understandably) rather overwhelming audience response.

Enjoy, if you can.

P.S.: my English paraphrase of Goethe's text (at 4:44 and following) is a deliberate travesty - so don't think I don't know.

P.P.S.: if you've got a broad-band connection, be sure to go to YouTube and click on "watch in high quality." Sight and sound both much improved.

Comments (4)

P.P.P.S. - the opening image is Mahler himself, rehearsing for the premiere, in Munich, in 1910.

He's kind of hard to see.

Cool video!

It was the translation that most caught my attention and curiosity. As I'm unfamiliar with Goethe's _Faust_ (one ends up admitting so much ignorance on the Internet, it seems...), I'm curious as to how this fits in. Is the idea that this is when Faust is unexpectedly redeemed, and the Virgin Mary draws him on high despite his deal with the devil? Where does the Veni Creator Spiritus fit in? Are those just the very last words of the chorus? That's surprising, since those words are of course the first words of a well-known Latin hymn to the Holy Ghost and are thus a bit abrupt after the preceding words, which look like they're leading into either a hymn to the Virgin or are just describing the Beatific Vision. And the Veni Creator is clearly related to people here on earth who need the enlightenment of the Holy Ghost, not to the saints enjoying the beatific vision.

This probably all sounds like theological over-analyzing, but I was just sufficiently curious about how it all fits together as to be willing to admit to not knowing much about Goethe!

Lydia - yes, in Goethe's telling of the story, Faust is, ultimately, redeemed.

As for "Veni, Creator Spiritus" - well, that was a reference back to the *first* movement of the symphony, which is a setting of that magnificent Latin hymn.


Fabulous video. Image and music complement each other very well. Many thanks.

Last night I heard a superb performance of the Mahler 8th by the Nashville Symphony under Giancarlo Guerrero. It was a transformative experience. I have been searching for a good translation of this Chorus, and behold, here is yours!

I have to say that your paraphrase is far from travesty. Indeed, you have given us the true spirit and meaning of these words. This passage is very difficult to translate. Forget trying for transliteration; he coins words that even German speakers have trouble with. But you have simply gone to the heart of the matter and said plainly what I believe Goethe meant. This is beyond Christianity, despite the reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary: he is talking about the eternal feminine principle and her names are legion: Mother, Goddess, Virgin, Queen, Womanhood, as Goethe has already said. This final scene for Goethe (and Mahler) transcends religion; it is truly, as the title of the passage tells us, Mystical.

Malcolm Glass

P. S. Unfortunately. the Horenstein recording is way beyond my budget. Amazon has a used copy for $195. Guess I'll have to stay with Bernstein or Tilson-Thomas (now being lauded as the best ever).

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