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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

Composer note:
Mahlerwerk is a play on the German word "Mahlwerk," or grinding machine. Commissioned by NDR/Elbphilharmonie and premiered under the baton of Christoph Eschenbach for the Mahler centennial, the piece was inspired by the post-industrial landscape of the Hamburg docklands, which, until their recent renaissance, were best known for abandoned factories and underground night-clubs. The work is made exclusively of hundreds of fragments from the nine Mahler symphonies — all in their original keys, tempos, and orchestrations — kaleidoscopically reconfigured in a 21st-century context.

— Nathaniel Stookey

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
Stookey's crazy jigsaw of hundreds of fragments of different Mahler compositions turned out to be an intelligent, musically highly attractive, and vibrant homage to Gustav Mahler. The evening at the Hamburg Arena was the best thing classical music could do for its future fans.
Michael Stitz, Schleswig-Holstein Zeitung,23/05/2011
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