I have been listening to Der Abschied, the closing part of The Song of The Earth by Gustav Mahler, on repeat. The songs in Song of The Earth, a composition for two voices and an orchestra, are based on several poems written by poets of the Tang dynasty.
This particular version was conducted in 1952 by his friend Bruno Walter. It is a moving piece made all the more powerful once you learn that Mahler didn’t live to hear the work performed.
Kathleen Ferrier’s contralto voice is incredible and sadly she was gravely ill with cancer when she performed it for this recording. She died the following year aged just 41.
Tragic, beautiful and addictive listening!
This piece continues my project responding to recordings of The Song of the Earth. For this work I listened to a version conducted by Long Yu which pairs Mahler’s symphonic song-cycle with contemporary compositions by Xiaogang Ye that draw on the texts in the original Mandarin.
The title ‘Everywhere the Lovely Earth Blossoms Forth’ is a line from Mahler’s version of The Song of the Earth. The songs talk of the beauty of the earth but the words today take on a new troubling poignancy as our awareness grows of the destruction the human race has unleashed on the natural world.
Man-made climate change threatens us all with developing countries and the poor currently facing the greatest threat. How can we work together to create a fairer and more sustainable future? Art can provide new and unexpected routes into reflective dialogue that brings the heart and soul into engagement with tackling climate change issues.
“There’s a guy I worked with in Canada who once told me important issues first go into your head and that’s interesting and fascinating. Then they go into your heart and that’s exciting, then into your gut, which is really worrying, and then into your soul.
“When it goes into your soul, you can’t get it out, no matter how much you try, and you have to do something about it.
“I think that’s what happened to me with climate change. First of all, I found it fascinating, then it was all very exciting to try and understand and see where it was happening, then it was really troubling. Now it’s in my soul and that’s what gets me out of bed every day.”
Dr Gabrielle Walker