Philip Hensher

Gustav Mahler’s bid for greatness: the ‘Symphony of a Thousand’

In 1910 everyone who was anyone attended the premiere of his Eighth, which called for 1,028 performers

A kind of gigantism took hold of the European mind in the years before the first world war. It shaped everything, from empires to poetry. In the confidence of new technology and new ideas, things could be attempted on a larger scale than ever before. The mental power of the age could be measured in the sheer size of the things it produced.

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