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Musicology Colloquium: Charles Youmans

Presented by Musicology Colloquium Series

date & time

Fri, Apr 19, 2024
4:30 pm
- 6:30 pm


Free, non-ticketed.

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“Mahler’s Convalescence: A ‘God-Seeker’ Confronts the Mature Nietzsche”

Charles Youmans

Penn State University

This lecture reconsiders Mahler’s evolving reception of Nietzsche, focusing on the long-term impact of the philosopher’s break with Wagner. The release in April 1878 of Menschliches, Allzumenschliches pulled the rug from under a teenage composer already firmly committed to Wagnerian musical metaphysics as theorized in Die Geburt der Tragödie (1872). Eighteen years later, still smarting, he used the immense Third Symphony to stage a confrontation between the old and new Nietzsches, without settling the question. The early 1900s saw a harsh and dismissive new tack (related colorfully by a skeptical Alma Mahler), but soon an affinity for Nietzschean optimism and the ewige Wiederkehr emerged, albeit intermittently, in the creative works of the final decade. Through all these phases, Mahler grappled with a private ambivalence notably reminiscent of the traumas described in “Der Genesende,” Part III/13 of Also sprach Zarathustra. His difficulty coming to terms with Nietzsche thus seems itself Nietzschean, suggesting a deeper indebtedness than we have imagined.

Charles Youmans, Professor of Musicology at Penn State University, is the author of Richard Strauss’s Orchestral Music and the German Intellectual Tradition (Indiana UP, 2005) andMahler and Strauss: In Dialogue (Indiana, 2016), and the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Richard Strauss (2010) andMahler In Context (Cambridge, 2020). He has published articles in 19th-Century MusicThe Musical Quarterly, the Journal of Musicology, and elsewhere, and he contributed nine chapters on Strauss’s tone poems to theRichard Strauss-Handbuch (Metzler/Bärenreiter, 2014).

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