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Mahler and a Typical Composer Letter

A Minute with Miles

In the letters of great composers, certain themes come up again and again, especially the composers’ struggles to get their works performed, and the desire—often frustrated—to have those works understood and appreciated. Here’s Gustav Mahler writing in 1906: “For the time being I must rest content with knowing that in a few places there are small circles of art-lovers for whom my work has some meaning, even perhaps some value. The first obstacle to its performance, no matter where, consists in the resources that would have to be employed. Even more of a drawback, however, is the fact that its forms of expression are completely unrelated to what is customary, and at present only a small minority of people recognize that they spring naturally from the composer’s character and are not merely arbitrary and freakish.” A letter from Gustav Mahler, but one that could have been written by any number of other composers throughout history.

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.