Why Mahler? Why Not?

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Gustav Mahler was born 150 years ago this week and we're celebrating with a week-long "Mahlerfest" on WQXR.org.  Check it out!

To celebrate the Mahler anniversary, British music commentator Norman Lebrecht has published a book called Why Mahler? (due out in the U.S. this October). A surprising number of music-lovers ask that question with disdain, rather than love, in their voices.

I have a friend--a serious concert-goer, with symphony, opera and chamber music subscriptions--who avoids any program that contains Mahler.  When I asked why, he said he finds Mahler’s music “unemotional, with wild discord and no interesting theme; a jumble of tunes where nothing comes out right.” 

I have exactly the opposite reaction to Mahler: I love hearing all the melodies from Mahler songs that pop up in his symphonies, which move me deeply. And as a singer, I love performing his music. 

How about you? When it comes to Mahler, which camp do you fall into?