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What the Universe Tells Me: Unraveling the Mysteries of Mahler's Third Symphony (2003)

Cast: Thomas Hampson, Thomas Hampson, Mignon Dunn, more...
Director: Jason Starr, Jason Starr
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Video Artists International
Genre: Documentary, Music, Music Videos/Performance, Documentary, Music
Subtitles: Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanes
    see additional details...

Synopsis
Academy Award nominee Stockard Channing narrates this musical documentary from Video Artists International that explores one of the most renowned works of classical music ever composed. What the Universe Tells Me: Unraveling the Mysteries of Mahler's Third Symphony combines footage of the lavish scenery that inspired the piece with expert commentary and a performance of the music itself. ~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Ratings

What the Universe Tells Me: Unraveling the Mysteries of Mahler's Third Symphony (2003)
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6.80 (5 votes)
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What the Universe Tells Me: Unraveling the Mysteries of Mahler's Third Symphony (Bonus Disc) (2003)
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8.00 (2 votes)
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GreenCine Member Reviews

a mixed bag by yaobong May 17, 2005 - 1:31 AM PDT
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2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
The main documentary itself is rather disappointing and shallow. It's a mix of clips of musicians playing, scholars airing sound bites, and National Geographic type images with background commentaries on suffering, struggles, love, God, acceptance, blah, blah, blah - things you can say for just about any major symphonic work. Ironically it's in the extra features where I feel I learned something more about the symphony. There, the scholars and experts were given more space to explain their views and insight about the work (and Mahler in general) without getting edited away after 5 seconds.

The Whole Enchilschlaga by JPielaszczyk November 1, 2004 - 2:59 PM PST
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1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
A technical note: the 215-minute length applies to the sum of both DVDs: this one, the actual full-length performance, and the other one, the excellent intro and documentaries, each have playing times of 100+ minutes.

Nearly (gulp!) a half-century ago, I watched conductor Leonard Bernstein say to the television audience " . . . as in this excerpt from Mahler . . ." as he turned and gave the downbeat to the orchestra. It was a case of sympathetic vibration, or soul communication. I've listened to his works often; to the Third, dozens of times.

Watching and listening to this performance adds another dimension of knowledge to my future hearings. I listen this frequently to bask in the communicated cosmic consciousness. The end of the work feathers off into eventual quiet; after all, since this is finite music, it must end. On another level, though, it doesn't end, and the producers of the (other) documentary disk get high marks for dissolving the images of receeding performers into images of receeding galaxies, thereby substituting space for time.

My CD of the Third is with the Berlin Philharmonic--certainly a velvet steamroller, a well-oiled V-16 Marmon running on leaded gas. This performance is with young players who play well enough, and some very well indeed. My biggest carp is with a tendency to seem to play somewhat behind the beat, most noticeable in the sprawling grand rhetoric of the trombone solo. This tendency is perhaps exacerbated by slower-paced adagios (in particular) than I'm accustomed to hearing. The plus is the gain in spaciousness--one of the key elements of the work. The minus is that listeners unfamiliar with the work might not scan the melodies quickly enough to prevent their components from falling apart.

The performance, however, is not the work. The weight of the work is in the outer two (of the six) movements. Two inner movements (totaling under 15 minutes) have singer(s) and work better for me if I don't follow along with a translation. Mahler was more what we would call spiritual than religious. I get twitchy about aspects of the Christian stratum in his work--and in some of the visuals of the cathedral where the recording was made.

Love, death, innocence, transcendence, the kitchen sink--it's all here. The artist trumps Schopenhauer's imperative of the grasping, competitive, will-to-life of all creatures.

"A Symphony Must . . . Embrace Everything"--Mahler by JPielaszczyk November 1, 2004 - 1:52 PM PST
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2 out of 4 members found this review helpful
"The Romantics thought of great art as a species of heroism, a breaking through or going beyond. Following them, adepts of the modern demanded of masterpieces that they be, in each case, an extreme case--terminal or prophetic, or both." Susan Sontag's words (from Under the Sign of Saturn) could be applied to Mahler's work, and, perhaps especially, to the Third, his biggest symphony, the most out of the ordinary in proportion and design, as well as the most massive of his insults to tradition--though he also craved being part of that same tradition (Joseph Steinberg, The Symphony: A Listener's Guide). Mahler (1860-1911) was the summa and the apotheosis of the Romantic tradition, and, with his researches into modern physics, psychoanalysis, and Eastern philosophy, very much a modern man. He swung for the fences, and this is his long drive ball to deep center field. He expected his audience--members of a wide socio-economic spectrum--to become transformed after hearing his music.

The "bonus disk" contains the straight-through performance of the Third. This disk contains all the excellent documentaries, with samples from the same performance, and might be enough for some.

The GC-supplied review of this CD is excellent, covering as it does the range and depth of the philosophical/artistic/historical facets surrounding this work. This is intellectual catnip with marrow.

The other--the so-called "bonus disk"--contains the straight-through performance of the Third. This disk contains all the excellent documentaries, with samples from the same performance, and might be enough for some. Others can check out the full-length version, which I've reviewed (The Whole Enchilschlaga).

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