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Born on this day 160 years ago, Mahler’s music has dominated concert halls since the middle of the twentieth century. Like Tolkien, Chaplin, Nietzsche, and Klimt, Mahler’s essentially voyeuristic journey of the individual has been the story of our time. His nine symphonies, plus his symphonic song cycle, Das Lied von der Erde, are truly universes of sound, and many of them feature the human voice as a soloist and en masse. But it is through his songs that I think we see the most vulnerable and child-like Mahler, and the collection of songs titled Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth’s Magic Horn) are a must in understanding Mahler’s psyche.

Des Knaben Wunderhorn is a collection of folk poems that were assembled by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano and published in the early 1800’s. Mahler heavily edited the poems and there twelve songs that make up the orchestral songs of Des Knaben Wunderhorn and nine songs that were composed for voice and piano.

Here are my favorite recordings.