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The Intersection of Science, Art, Music & Humanities

Mahler's Fifth Symphony Adagietto

Sunday, July 16, 2017


Life is short, art is long, opportunity fleeting, experiment dangerous, judgment difficult.  ―Hippocrates 


Listening to Mahler's Fifth Symphony Adagietto* is this year's balm for my soul.


This piece of music is perfectly integrated into the Venice, Italy, images and the extraordinary soundtrack of Luchino Visconti's 1971 film adaptation of Thomas Mann's best selling Death in Venice, which is also included in the list of life-affirming film scores I would want with me (ll Postino, Cinema Paradiso, Chocolat, Chariots of Fire, and Schindler's List), should I ever be stranded on a deserted islandhopefully with a Ben Franklin-curious, inventive man.  


The Adagietto bookends Death in Venice and sets the melancholic mood as Aschenbach's ship steams into Venice at the opening and returns as the composer dies in the rain. 


Mahler's Fifth suggests a kind of inner personal drama, with the crucial Adagietto forming a hinge on which tragedy turns to triumph. 


A favorite Classic FM radio personality, Jane Jones, reported that after Mahler premiered his Fifth Symphony in 1904, he said, "Nobody understood it. I wish I could conduct the first performance fifty years after my death." 


Herbert von Karajan, the Mahler conductor featured in today's Venice photography and painting video, is quoted as saying, "When you hear Mahler's Fifth, you forget time has passed. A great performance of the Fifth is a transforming experience that can make you want to hold your breath."


We hope you enjoy these scenes of Venice and Mahler's Fifth Adagietto.


Ars longa,


Ellen Troyer with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff


A tempo mark directing that a passage is to be played slightly faster than adagio.