Every time I think I might be wrong about the essential meaningless of most music criticism, I read stuff like this—a catalog by Philip Kennicott of some of the idiocies he found in Norman Lebrecht’s new book Why Mahler?: How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed Our World:
Lebrecht is convinced that Mahler is more than a great artist. His symphonies are also prognostications of war, modern technology, and environmental degradation. “In his Third and Seventh symphonies he hinted at a future ecological disaster; in the Sixth he warned of imminent world war,” Lebrecht writes. “His First Symphony tackled child mortality,” and “his Second denied church dogma on the afterlife.” The Fourth symphony not only “proclaimed racial equality,” it also made “a case for animal rights.
A case for animal rights, no less. Because, you see, Lebrecht endorses animal rights, and Lebrecht endorses GustavMahler, so, by a perfectly obvious syllogism, one must express the other.
Why Mahler, indeed? Why poor Mahler?