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A Quick Meditation on Gustave Mahler

Wittgenstein dismissed Mahler’s music, but he conceded
that "very rare talents [were needed] to produce this bad music.”
Leonard Bernstein as conductor of the New York Philharmonic
sparked the Mahler boom of the 1960s. In Visconti's Death in Venice
you can hear  the slow fourth movement of Mahler's fifth in C Sharp minor,
which Mahler conducted in Cologne in 1904. In the movie
a heavily made-up Dirk Bogarde played himself as a repressed homosexual
with a death wish. Visconti cast Bogarde for the role because he had done so well
as a Nazi in a black shirt with a smirk and an SS symbol on his collar
in The Damned. So I, on a day dominated by Mahler’s Fifth,
thought of the composer who spoke Yiddish as a boy,
"a Bohemian in Austria, an Austrian among Germans,
and a Jew all over," on his birthday, July 7, 1860.

--  David Lehman

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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