On this day in 1904, in Cologne, Germany, Gustav Mahler conducted the first performance of his Fifth Symphony. It was not a success. Applause was light, with loud hissing from some in the audience. Even Mahler's wife, Alma, complained so much about the orchestration after the first rehearsals that Mahler kept tinkering with the score until the very last year of his life.
Despite this inauspicious beginning, today Mahler's Fifth has become a popular showpiece for virtuoso symphony orchestras around the world. The symphony's slow movement, marked Adagietto, is supposedly a musical love letter to his wife, Alma, and has become one of Mahler's best-loved pieces.
The American composer Jerome Moross also had a symphony premiered on today's date. The year was 1943, Moross was 30 years old, and Sir Thomas Beecham conducted the Seattle Symphony. Unlike Mahler, Moross wrote only ONE symphony, and the slow movement of his was inspired by the American hobo tune "The Midnight Special."
Jerome Moross is perhaps better known for his work in Hollywood. His 1958 score for "The Big Country" was nominated for an Academy Award. Moross also wrote the music for "Wagon Train," a popular TV Western series. As Moross once said: "a composer must reflect his landscape and mine is the landscape of America. I don't do it consciously, it is simply the only way I can write."