Author: Anita Rogers
One of my favorite Mahler pieces, and clearly one of his most famous, is Mahler’s 9th Symphony. The piece has gained much notoriety over the years not only as an incredible work of music, but as Mahler’s last completed symphony. Written between 1908 and 1909, Mahler’s 9th is regarded by many as his greatest achievement. The piece is beautifully and masterfully constructed over four movements using woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings. The movements breakdown as follows:
I. Adante comodo
II. Im Tempo eines gemächlichen Ländlers. Etwas täppisch und sehr derb
III. Rondo-Burleske: Allegro assai. Sehr trotzig
IV. Adagio. Sehr langsam und noch zurückhaltend
Prior to writing his 9th symphony, Gustav Mahler dealt with the difficult loss of his daughter, Putzi. Following her death, Mahler chose to resign as director of the Vienna Court Opera. It was also during this time that a lesion was found in one of his heart valves during a routine check up. This time period was undoubtedly extremely difficult for Mahler, forcing him to take a brief hiatus from his creative outlet. Despite the struggles, Mahler returned with a new appreciation for life and successfully completed his final symphony.
The significance of Mahler’s Ninth is often debated. Is it a morbid welcoming to the death that lied before him, or is it a representation of his time alive? As the piece dissolves into a slower, quieter sound, it is easy to fall in line with the belief held by many conductors and listeners that the piece represents a series of deaths. Whatever you believe, the piece will always be open to interpretation as a listener.
For as long as I can remember I have been truly inspired by the work of Roza Eskenazi. Quite simply, she sang with a fire and passion that is often imitated, but rarely duplicated. “My Sweet Canary” is an exploration of the Roza Eskenazi’s influence on musicians today. The film follows 3 musicians from Israel, Turkey, and Greece, exploring their love of the music and why Roza’s music remains significant in today’s world. The documentary also provides detailed accounts of her life as told by family, friends, and the musicians who admire her.
Born in Istanbul to a Sephardic Jewish family, Roza and her siblings grew up dealing with the struggles of an impoverished way of living. While Roza and her family were living in Komotini, a city with a significant Turkish population at the time, she was overheard singing by local Turkish tavern owners. Immediately captivated by the sound of her voice, they were quick to express their desire for her as a performer in their taverns. At the time, Roza’s mother was angered by the idea of her daughter, or any of her children for that matter, becoming an artist and performing at local taverns. Roza would later admit that her time spent living in Komotini was a significant turning point, as it ultimately led to her becoming a dancer and singer.
From impoverished beginnings in Istanbul to the earliest stages of discovering her voice in Komotini, Roza set in motion a legacy that would inspire many generations for years to come. Roza Eskenazi rose to fame as the most popular singer during the 1930’s in Greece and Turkey. Known as the Diva of Rebetiko, Roza was featured and displayed everywhere. You could call her the definitive popstar of her generation. Everyone knew her and everyone wanted to see her perform. Roza recorded over 500 songs in Greek, Turkish, Armenian, and Ladino, making her the most recorded Rebetiko singer.
The film offers an incredible perspective of an artist whose legacy lives on today. Through Roza’s story, we are exposed to a time and a world that some never knew existed. We are introduced to a woman who helped define an era through passionate music that merged the east and west. Today, Roza Eskenazi and the Rebetiko music lives on and shows no signs of relenting.
I have had a lifelong love affair with Gustav Mahler. His 9th symphony, especially the last movement, has always been my personal favorite. Mahler is an extraordinary talent – his gentle, long appoggiaturas and bursts of (what was called) loud, and gorgeous noise!! It makes my heart bleed. I was singing through his Des Knaben Wunderhorn last week. I am always amazed by his brilliance and genius. Die Shonen Trompeten is my personal favorite. The middle section “Willkommen lieber knabe mein, so lang…” ahhhh! So stunning it is hard to sing and not cry!!