As one of the chief representatives of French music in the early twentieth century, Nadia Boulanger is typically ignored in discussions of the reception of Gustav Mahler’s music, which—like most studies of reception—focus primarily on press accounts and public events. Moreover, Boulanger is usually considered in the context of a broader French aversion, in the first half of the twentieth century, to Mahler’s late-Romantic Austro-German idiom. But a range of documentary evidence concerning her attendance at the 1920 Mahler festival in Amsterdam, including previously unexamined correspondence as well as scores annotated in her hand, reveals that, motivated by a post-World War I spirit of internationalism, Boulanger contributed materially to the study and performance of Mahler. She encouraged audiences to consider his music’s emotional power and analyzed it in a way that drew attention to its orchestration and the horizontal aspects of its construction. She also introduced such figures as Aaron Copland to Mahler’s music, preparing him to approach it in a way that centered on the vocabulary of neo-classicism. Boulanger’s engagement with Mahler not only contributes to our picture of the composer’s reception, but also reveals the historiographical value of discourses that take place behind the scenes.
An Imperfect Mahlerite: Nadia Boulanger and the Reception of Gustav Mahler
Matthew Mugmon is assistant professor of musicology at the University of Arizona, where he holds the Daveen Fox Endowed Chair for Music Studies. He served as the New York Philharmonic’s Leonard Bernstein Scholar-in-Residence for the 2015–16 season. His research has appeared in Music & Letters, the Journal of Musicological Research, and the edited collection Rethinking Mahler. Current projects include a monograph focusing on Aaron Copland’s relationship with Gustav Mahler’s music and a chapter on recent American symphonies in a forthcoming volume in the series The Symphonic Repertoire.
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Matthew Mugmon; An Imperfect Mahlerite: Nadia Boulanger and the Reception of Gustav Mahler. Journal of Musicology 1 January 2018; 35 (1): 76–103. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jm.2018.35.1.76
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