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 that Mahler kept tinkering with the score until the last year of his life.
Despite this inauspicious beginning, Mahler’s Fifth has become a popular showpiece for virtuoso orchestras and its slow movement, marked Adagietto -- supposedly Mahler’s musical love to Alma -- 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 its premiere performance with 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 best known 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. 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.”