CHAPTER VIII
THE SONGS AND SYMPHONIES: A GENERAL SURVEY

GRADUALLY, as the years went by, composition became for Mahler a concurrent antithesis to his conducting, a deliberately romantic make-believe, an escapist's nostalgic dream, consciously excluding all the features of the "wicked" world of opera in which as a successful star-conductor he was condemned to live a glamorous but haunted existence. His creative personality stresses those elements which are so conspicuously missing in the atmosphere of the stage; pantheistic worship of nature, a child's heaven with its innocent spiritualization of the animal world, Jacob's wrestling with the Angel ('Ich bin von Gott und will wieder zu Gott . . .'). Occasionally it indulges in homely, mock-medieval romanticism, mysteriously emanating from ancient townships and wonderfully coming to life in the paintings of Spitzweg. Only once does it shed an introspective light into the recesses of its creator's tortured soul, in a gruesome anticipation of future private grief ( Kindertotenlieder). It exults ecstatically in the patristic hymn music for the final scene of Goethe's Faust. Finally it fades away into the blue eternity of ancient Chinese poetry.

Into this world Mahler plunged regularly during short holiday weeks or when he happened to be without a conductor's post. His own music could never grow up organically as the central factor of his artistic existence; up to the very end it was doomed to an uneasy coexistence with Mahler's conducting and remained a 'side-line.' Mahler died at the very moment of general recognition, only a year after he had signed the first exclusive contract with a publisher--the Universal Edition--and before he had himself tried out and heard the works of his maturity ( Lied von der Erde, Symphonies IX and X). The simple truth is that his music was left in a state of precarious incompleteness owing to the fact that fate had denied it finality of

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