One of my favorite guessing games this year is “who will be the next Mahler?”
The goal of this game is not to decide whether Schoenberg or Shostakovich was Mahler’s true musical heir (it’s likely they both thought they were). Rather, the question is over which composer will be the next to capture the sort of broad mixture of public adoration and critical admiration now enjoyed by Mahler. Bonus points for rising from obscurity.
It’s not just a matter of identifying the next most popular composer and waiting for them to catch up to Gus. After all, had one polled 1960’s listeners and asked them who would be the favorite of 2010’s listeners, I doubt Mahler would have been in the top 50. 1960’s era critics were busy assuring everyone that by 2011, Webern would be as popular as Brahms.
A friend recently recently sent me this page from the Oxford Companion to Music, fourth edition, published in 1942.
“He left nine symphonies, which have been taken very seriously in Germany and Holland, but have never had much hearing elsewhere.”
Mahler barely manages more space than Albric Magnard. It doesn’t look like Mahler was on anyone’s list for “most important composer in the universe after Beethoven” in 1942. Certainly not in Oxford.
Maybe Magnard is next? There are still a whole lot of fine composers out there whose music hasn’t been heard well or often enough for audiences and musicians to make up their minds on them.
As it happens, my friend Parry Karp has made the first recording of the Magnard Cello Sonata as part of a 2 disc set of late romantic era cello sonatas from Ireland, Magnard, Enescu, Strauss and Rachmaninoff. You can order it here, but click here for a short sample of the Magnard. Great stuff.
There are four Magnard Symphonies, which I was somewhat disappointed to find out have already been recorded. I’m hoping the existing recordings suck, so I have an excuse to do them (if they are good).
Schnittke? Lutoslawski? Schumann? Schuman? Krenek? Rubbra? Debussy? Berio? Britten?
Maybe it will be Webern?
Please let us know your guess for the next king. Or queen.
Zwilich? Gubaidulina? Higdon?