Originally Posted by Bunnyears
Has anyone heard the Mahler piano rolls? He made them in 1905 after he had completed the M5.
I have a recording of Gershwin playing his own music from piano rolls so I know just how limiting the medium was, but they should give a good indication of tempos that Mahler favored. The works recorded are these:
"Ging Heut' Morgens ubers Feld"
"Ich ging mit Lust durch einen grunen Wald"
Symphony # 4 (4th movement)
Symphony # 5 (1st movement)
They are available at Amazon and I am seriously considering getting them (but I suspect I'll listen once and never again).
The two symphonic movements seem to give an indication that Mahler's speeds were more moderate than is often heard. His slow speeds are quicker than usual, and his fast speeds are slower. Plus they show that Mahler used sprung rhythms, not literal rhythms, and with a natural flexibility. The first movement of the 5th is worth listening to more than just once because in addition to being so informative about Mahler's own approach, it is also quite satisfying (for a piano version).
You know, if we can extrapolate from these piano rolls, the problem with modern Mahler performance is not that it has gotten too slow, but that it has gotten too extreme in both directions. After all, several prominent recordings of the first movement of the 5th knock it off too efficiently (Kubelik, Solti, Neumann, Walter, Kondrashin, etc). On the other hand, everyone is way too slow in the finale of the 4th, according to the piano roll.
But what is more important that specific tempos (which Mahler often changed) is hearing his organic, flexible manner.
BTW/FWIW: I think the Gershwin player rolls were Duo-Art, whereas Mahler's were Welte Mignon, which seems to have been a somewhat more accurate reproduction system.