Beethoven set the bar impossibly high but composers like myself still regard it as the ultimate challenge
Richard Strauss tested bourgeois tolerance with Salome and Elektra but found it bad for business
Gustav Mahler’s very public demise marked the beginning of a new age of fascination with the private lives of the famous
Can we hear the strains of mortality in the late works of classical composers?
Six thousand-odd people in the Royal Albert Hall certainly seemed to think so on Friday night. The roar of joy that greeted the Great Gustav’s Symphony No.1 as delivered by the Berlin Philharmonic and Starry Sir Simon was an experience in itself. Anyone who has never attended a Prom needs to imagine the scene: this vast round hall packed out, the arena crammed with promenaders yelling for music and the musicians who play it. Anyone who doubts the value of the BBC and publicly funded arts needs to imagine it too, by the way, because this just wouldn’t be possible without them.
A fine new tribute explains why Mahler matters more than ever