“Mahler wanted to live, that’s the whole point!”
Do you remember the first time you heard Mahler’s music?
Pappano: My first encounter with Mahler’s music was, of course, with the vocal music; the Rückert-Lieder – Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen [I am lost to the world] had a huge impact on me, but you know, strangely enough, the song that stays with me is Liebst du um Schönheit [If you love for beauty]. I know that song was originally not part of the group, but it’s so specifically Mahlerian. Mahler’s identity is absolutely unmistakable – in three notes. And this is what made such a huge impression on me; it couldn’t be anybody else.
It’s very popular to say that Mahler was influenced by this or that. He was a conductor, the greatest conductor of his generation, certainly for opera, and he had everything in his head, so of course his music can be a mishmash of all different things; but what you do with this mishmash, what you do with your influences and how you make them into something that is your own – he did that like nobody else.