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Mahler: Autopsy of a Genius


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Editorial Reviews

This documentary film directed by Andy Sommer tells Mahler's real story, going against any romanticized images we may have of the subject. The film places the spectator in Mahler's shoes. Using documented evidence (drawing on the latest research), it show

Special Features

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Product Details

  • Actors: Mengelberg, Bernstein, Harding
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Classical, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: French (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, German, French
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: EuroArts
  • DVD Release Date: June 28, 2011
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004VP9YJI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,455 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Clive S. Goodwin on July 8, 2011
Verified Purchase
On the face of it, this seems like it couldn't lose - narrated by Mahler's most comprehensive biographer, interviews with noted Mahler conductors - what could go wrong? As it turns out, plenty!

It's done purely chronologically, but anyone who loves Mahler's music or done any reading about him will already know 90% of this.If you want to experience how this should be done, get the Michael Tilson Thomas Keeping Score set, which contains a very good Symphony #1, and whole movements from #5, 7 and 9. His analysis his impeccable, and I did learn a LOT from his set, especially the use of recurring motifs. Plus the sound and photography are top-notch.

Back to the current release. Euroarts lifted sections fron their own Abbado Mahler set (which has excellent sound and picture} but the quality is awful on this disc. Sound is only offered in stereo, no surround. Berstein's set is sampled also, but the sound and picture is dated on the original anyway. Boulez #2 is also sampled, also with much worse picture and sound than the original.This is not a good way for Euroarts to persuade people to buy their Mahler dvds.

Audio samples from Mahler's works are also utilized, but other than Klemperer and Walter, are basically from undistinguished performances. This project is essentially a narrated slide show, except where a guy who looks nothing like Mahler is shown supposedly conducting!

So, if you know this music, and are at all familiar with Mahler's life, save your twenty bucks! Spend a bit more, and get the Tilson Thomas. I was fortunate enough to DVR the PBS broadcast of his set, but I would have bought it if I hadn't managed that.

A wasted opportunity!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Paul Fishbein on July 23, 2011
This engaging and picturesque biograghy of Gustav Mahler deserves praise and appreciation. That the world's foremost expert on his life narrates and that some of the finest Mahler interpreters conduct, serve to enhance the marvelous vistas depicted in this documentary on Mahler's life. While reviewing the details,
struggles, triumphs and anguish of his life, we follow him via stunning photograghy from his birthplace in Iglau, to Vienna, the Dolomites, and finally to New York City. While excerpts of most of his symphonies are
depicted, intelligently inserted to fit his life story, it is surprising that no real mention is made of his Eighth Symphony and his tremendous success at its premiere in Munich. Yet, who can truly argue with the rest? To listen to his music conducted by Bernstein, Abbado, Boulez, and Harding while hearing directly from Henry-Louis de la Grange is an opportunity not to be missed. They dissect Mahler's life and creative output with loving care. We are fortunate, indeed, that this video has been made. It is enjoyable, educational and highly recommended.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Warren Harris on October 10, 2011
For so many people, Gustav Mahler is a love-hate thing - you either are enthralled by his music, or you strongly dislike it. I fall in the former camp in that I just can't get enough of it. So for me, this documentary (being focused on bringing the truth of the man to light, rather than the idolized image) was right up my alley if it lived up to its description. And it most definitely does.

The film includes interviews with Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, Danielle Gatti, Thomas Hampson, and others, and each has something unique to add to the depiction of Mahler being presented. Fascinating are descriptions and images of areas in which he spent his childhood, as are the images of his summer home where he composed and the artifacts that remain as physical evidence of his presence - his glasses, baton, scores, and manuscripts. It is enlightening to hear stories of his time in Vienna as well as New York, and the film paints a picture of a man determined to express how he experienced life and music through the musicians he worked with, even though many of them disliked his methods or the way in which they felt he was treating them. By the same token, the immense regard for Mahler the conductor is strongly communicated, and one can't help but wonder how marvelous it would have been to attend one of his performances.

The documentary also touches on the love that Mahler had for his children, the heartbreak he experienced when one of his daughters died, and the pain when he discovered his wife having an affair with the architect Walter Gropius. While no film can hope to capture the essence of a life as complicated as Mahler's, Andy Sommer's film does a remarkable job in communicating the humanity of the man, as well as the ways in which his genius set him apart from other people. It is a fascinating portrait of an incredible composer and conductor, and is worth watching for anyone interested in the man behind this incredible music.
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Although Mahler aficionados will already know much about Mahler's life, this documentary film shows you scenes and places important to Mahler's life, and you hear about them from noted "Mahler personalities" like Henry-Louis de la Grange, Leonard Bernstein, Claudio Abbado, Thomas Hampson, and Daniel Harding.

It's such a delight to ride in a New York taxicab, with Henry-Louis de la Grange pointing out the building where Alma kept Gustav's manuscripts (in a metal cabinet!), and later we see views of Mahler's view of Central Park where he walked with his daughter, Gucki. Henry-Louis tells us how, watching her father correcting a score, little Gucki exclaimed:

"Oh! I wouldn't like to be a note, because I wouldn't like to be rubbed out."

There are some wonderful video clips of Leonard Bernstein conducting Mahler. A dear friend of mine dislikes Bernstein, for she thinks he makes himself a large part of the performance. Perhaps, but who among Mahler lovers can criticize someone for showing his passion for the music. I love Lenny and always will. His contagious enthusiasm for Mahler spurred much of the re-awareness of Mahler and his music.

Another opportunity this video affords is a closer look at some of Mahler's more unusual instruments, from the mighty wooden mallet and sound box of the Sixth Symphony, to Mahler's famous cowbells which hint at going higher up the mountain, until the last sounds of earth are those distant cowbells. There is also the opportunity to see some of Mahler's "composing huts" where, during summers, he removed himself from the world to concentrate on writing his music.
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