Top Ten Signs You May Have Just Written a Mahler Symphony

Top Ten Signs You May Have Just Written a Mahler Symphony

10. Somewhere in the world, someone is already arguing over which order the middle movements should be played in.

9. You have set a new world record for most grace notes in a first violin part.

8. 15 year-old boys are already practicing the trumpet parts really, really loudly before their high school orchestra rehearsals, where they will be playing Sleigh Ride.

7. You’ve already gone back and put 500 fortepiano markings in the brass parts

6. You’ve just written a footnote explaining that “the Luftpause notated above should not be so long that it actually sounds like a Luftpause, nor so short that it doesn’t sound almost like a Luftpause

5. Someone has already started an arrangement for string quintet, clarinet and harmonium, and you don’t even know what a harmonium is.

4. The contralto repertoire has just expanded by 6.23%

3. A Hans Rott aficionado has already identified at least 11 instances or plagiarism from the Rott Symphony in E, including your blatant use of the pitch “middle c.”

2. Your conductor friends seem a little put out when you keep bragging that “the damnable Scherzo will prove un-conductable for the next 100 years! Everyone will take it too fast!”

1. Your wife couldn’t resist pointing out that you forgot to end the symphony in the tonic key….. AGAIN!

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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13 comments on “Top Ten Signs You May Have Just Written a Mahler Symphony”

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Kenneth Woods- A View From the Podium » Top Ten Signs You May Have Just Written a Mahler Symphony --

  2. Erik K

    There is nothing better than a great inside joke. These are really funny…I’m particularly giddy about 8, 6, and 3.

  3. Aurora T

    i had to share this so my fellow college musicians could get a laugh out of it too 🙂

  4. Mark L

    How did you put this top ten up 10 minutes after a Mahler rehearsal? You should have been putting stuff away or drinking beer. Fair enough very soon after you were indeed drinking beer

  5. Bill A

    You forgot “You know you may have written a Mahler Symphony when the 3rd clarinet player has to lug 4 horns onto the stage”. We’ll assume he transposes the C part to Bb hence avoiding the 5th

  6. David Bittinger

    Well observed. I’d add one:

    Although you’ve repeatedly urged “nicht eilen” at highly charged passages, conductors who think they’re channeling Solti or are simply hot dog mediocrities will ALWAYS rush these passages, vandalizing the true drama and profundity of your symphony. (As conductors who grew up in the rock era take over, this rushing problem will become progressively and depressingly more common.)

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