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In 1985, Bernstein made a video essay exploring Mahler’s Jewishness as expressed in his music. He says, “The term ‘jewishness’, of course, represents many things. It is a tradition, a faith, a school of moral philosophy, an official religion based on the laws of Moses, plus the Talmud, plus the Kabbalah, plus a certain outlook conditioned by the collective ghetto experiences of millennia. Moreover, at the time of Mahler’s birth in the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the 1860’s, ‘jewishness’ also meant being subject to a quite specific number of laws and regulations–not at all from the Mosaic code–involving most aspects of daily life. For example, there was the so-called Familiengesetz, or ‘Families Law’, which quite arbitrarily proscribed the maximum number of legal Jewish marriages, a number fixed for some reason at 8600 for the whole of Bohemia.” Here you can watch that film in its entirety:

Here you can read a translation of the text to Mahler’s song “The Drummer Boy”.

Leonard Bernstein tirelessly championed and interpreted the music of Gustav Mahler, as seen here in a 1960 broadcast:

    Curved Air    January 2nd, 2024

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