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Nathaniel Stookey

Publisher: AMP

Mahlerwerk (2011),
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Year Composed
14 Minutes
Programme Note
Nathaniel Stookey Mahlerwerk (2011),
May 20 2011
NDR Sinfonieorchester & The Young ClassX Projektorchester
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Hamburg, Germany

A play on the German word "mahlwerk," or grinding machine, Mahl/er/werk is an apt title for this kaleidoscopic remix. The work comprises hundreds of fragments from Mahler’s symphonic oeuvre, all in their original keys, tempos, and orchestrations, pieced together in a 21st century context.

The piece is dedicated to Alfred Schnittke.

  • 19 NOV 2016
    Redwood City, CA
    Redwood Symphony
    Eric Kujawsky, conductor
  • 30 NOV 2011
    Mahlerwerk Country Premiere
    New England Conservatory, Boston, MA
    New England Conservatory
    Hugh Wolfe, conductor
  • 20 MAY 2011
    Mahlerwerk World Premiere
    Hamburg, Germany
    NDR Sinfonieorchester & The Young ClassX Projektorchester
    Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

Stookey's "Mahlerwerk," which opened the program, is one of those high-concept undertakings that quickly transcend the simplicity of their underlying premise. The piece is a 15-minute mosaic assembled out of notes, chords and other fragments - hundreds of them, by the composer's count - taken intact from Mahler's symphonies. Not a moment in the piece doesn't have its roots in Mahler. What's striking about the results, at least at first, is how little they sound like Mahler. Stookey's work is not a stylistic pastiche, but an original score made out of found objects, something like a Chuck Close portrait or one of those digital images built from a grid of other, unrelated images. One does hear familiar riffs or harmonies flit past now and then, but the piece's shape and overall rhetoric have almost nothing to with their source. Rather, Stookey uses his material to create a chugging, dancelike tribute not only to Mahler but also to the synth-pop of the 1980s - particularly the influential German band Kraftwerk, to which the piece's title pays homage.
Joshua Kosman, SF Gate,20/05/2013
“Mahlerwerk” came to register rather like a wild theme park ride with a thoroughly exhilarating conclusion.
Stephen Smoliar, Examiner,19/05/2013
Whoever was afraid of intellectually difficult music was quickly proven wrong. Stookey’s crazy puzzle with over a hundred Mahler fragments turned out to be a highly intelligent and musically attractive, even vibrant homage to Gustav Mahler. The performance in Hamburg Arena was most successful in making classical music attractive to future fans.
Michael Stitz, Schleswig-Holstein Newspaper ,23/05/2011
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