Iain Farrington

Pianist, organist, composer, arranger

A Mahler Piano Series

In 2018, Iain perfomed an eleven concert series at the 1901 Arts Club, London, exploring the music of Gustav Mahler. It featured nearly all of Mahler’s symphonies in Iain’s solo piano arrangements, along with songs and piano music that influenced Mahler:

“The music of Gustav Mahler has become some of the most frequently performed and well-loved music in the Classical repertoire. As well as being an outstanding composer and conductor, Mahler was a virtuoso pianist who often composed at the piano and recorded a number of his works onto piano rolls. He played his symphonies on the piano to trusted friends, and accompanied singers on the piano in recitals of his songs. This concert series features a wide variety of musical styles that influenced Mahler, as well as the bulk of his symphonic music arranged for solo piano. There are folksongs, country dances, waltzes, klezmer, Jewish music, military marches, operetta, popular and salon music, traditional Chinese music, classical composers including Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner, a concert of works by female composers, as well as the music of friends and contemporaries such as Busoni and Schoenberg. This series explores the European musical melting pot of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and is a unique exploration of Mahler's musical world.”

1 -  From the countryside

Traditional – Kol Nidrei

Traditional – A vy pani muzikanti

Traditional – Tanz tanz yidelekh

Traditional - Untersteirer Landler

Traditional – 3 folksongs: Horch was kommt von draussen rein, Ach blumlein blau, Bruder Martin

Mahler – Blumine

Mahler – Lieder eines fahrenden gesellen


Mahler – 1st Symphony

The first concert in this series exploring Mahler's musical world begins with the sounds of his childhood. Mahler was surrounded by different musical styles and a number of these are included: a cantor singing in the synagogue, a popular local Moravian song, a Jewish klezmer melody, a traditional Austrian country dance, as well as familiar children's songs. Two of Mahler's early pieces are included, Blumine and the folk-inspired song cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. All of these musical elements are poured into Mahler's First Symphony, here made more apparent in an arrangement for solo piano.

2 - On Angel's Wings

Beethoven – Sonata in A flat major 1st mvt

Traditional - Weinsteirer Landler

Traditional – Dem Rebns Nign

Wagner – Die Erlosung (Redemption) Parsifal

Mahler – Totenfeier


Mahler – Wo die schonen Trompetten

Schumann - Das ist ein Floten und Geigen

Mahler – Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt

Mahler - Urlicht

Klopstock – Die Auferstehung

Bruckner – Ave Maria

Wagner – Der Engel

Brahms – O Tod wie bitter bist du

Strauss – Befreit

Elgar – The Angel's Farewell

In his Second Symphony, Mahler portrays a dramatic and triumphant journey from death to resurrection. Many of the musical influences heard in the Symphony are explored in this concert: the nobility of Beethoven, the grace of a country dance, the exoticism of Jewish klezmer and the ecstatic harmonies of Wagner. Mahler's Totenfeier is performed as well as his own songs that were to feature in the Symphony. Continuing the theme of human mortality, there follows a sequence of songs from the late 19th century that displays the various perspectives on death and religion: from bitter regret to blissful serenity.

3 - A Hymn to Nature

Josef Wagner – Under the Double Eagle

Traditional - Wir hatten gebauet ein stattliches Haus

Traditional – Ach du lieber Augustin

Traditional - Es zogen drei Burschen

Mahler – Ablosung im Sommer

Mahler - 3rd Symphony, Part 1


Mahler - 3rd Symphony, Parts 2-6

Artists of the Romantic era often explored the contrast between the calm beauty of nature and the hectic noise of the city. Mahler's Third Symphony depicts this struggle on an epic scale, using musical styles that are featured in this concert: a strident nationalist military march, a political street song, sentimental folksongs as well as Mahler's own nature-inspired songs. The Third Symphony is performed in a piano arrangement highlighting the diversity of influences in Mahler's work.

4 - Visions of Childhood

Mozart – Piano Sonata in C, K309 1st mvt

Schumann – Traumerei (Kinderszenen)

Traditional – Nukh Shale-Sudes

Humperdinck – Songs from Hansel and Gretel: Tanzliedchen, Schlummerliedchen, Morgenwechauf, Ein Echo im Walde, Lied des Sandmanns

Mahler – 3 songs: Das irdische Leben, Ich ging mit Lust, Lob des hohen Verstands


Mahler - 4th Symphony

In Mahler's Fourth Symphony, the work ends with a song depicting a child's view of Heaven. It was a song Mahler recorded on the piano, and inspired the childlike innocence and optimism of the rest of the Symphony. This concert features music of delicate simplicity that inspired Mahler, including works by Mozart and Schumann, a Jewish klezmer melody and the original 'singspiel' version of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel. Tuneful songs by Mahler precede the graceful Fourth Symphony, performed in a suitably intimate piano version.

5 - Love and Death

Mendelssohn – Song without words E minor, Op. 62, no. 3

Bizet – Adagietto

Bach – Prelude and Fugue in D major

Thomas Koschat – Am Worthersee

Mahler – 4 songs: Der Tambourgsell, Liebst du um Schonheit, Revelge, Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen


Mahler - 5th Symphony

Mahler's Fifth Symphony contains a huge emotional range, from funereal despair to exuberant joy. The main musical influences are explored in this concert, including works by Mendelssohn, Bizet, Bach and a waltz of sequence by one of the most popular songwriters of the day, Thomas Koschat. A number of Mahler's mature songs are performed, inhabiting the same musical worls as the Symphony: brutal marches, quiet introspection and a love song to his young wife Alma. Mahler himself recorded the first movement of the Symphony on the piano, and the complete work will be performed in a new piano arrangement.

6 - Musical Revolutionaries

Schrammel - Wien bleibt Wien

Janacek – Piano Sonata

Strauss – Dance of the Seven Veils (Salome)


Mahler - 6th Symphony

During the opening years of the 20th century, innovative and daring artists created works of revolutionary power. The pieces in this concert reflect the clash of the old stability with new radical ideas. Cheerful Viennese optimism is represented by a popular military march, contrasted with Janacek's tragic Piano Sonata, composed in protest at the oppression of the Czech people. Strauss's opera Salome was seen as dangerous and subversive and was banned in Vienna. The famous Dance of the Seven Veils performed here was recorded on the piano by Strauss himself. Mahler's Sixth Symphony is a tumultuous and turbulent work where the military march turns savage and violent. It is performed in a virtuoso arrangement for solo piano.

7 - The Popular and the Profound

Lehar – Merry Widow Waltzes

Liszt – Bagatelle sans tonalite

Zemlinsky – 2 piano pieces: Liebe, Albumblatt

Gustav Lange – Edelweiss

Josek Suk – Yearning (Spring)


Mahler - 7th Symphony

In his Seventh Symphony, Mahler drew on the many different sounds of his contemporaries, as well as his own groundbreaking concept of symphonic construction. This concert features influential works from the 'serious' musical world of Liszt and Zemlinsky, to the salon and operetta sounds of Lehar and Lange. Their influence is made apparent in a piano arrangement of the Seventh Symphony, a work of character, power and intimacy.

8 - Female Pioneers

Clara Schumann – Souvenirs de Vienne

Mathilde Kralik - Rhapsodie

Lili Boulanger – 2 songs: Reflets, Dans l'immense tristesse

Alma Mahler – 4 songs: Laue Sommernacht, Licht in der Nacht, Erntelied, In meines Vaters Garten


Amy Beach – 2 piano pieces: A Bit of Cairo, Out of the Depths

Rebecca Clarke – 3 songs: The Seal Man, June Twilight, Tiger

Florence Price – Fantasie Negre

Ethyl Smyth – Three Songs

Mahler's Eight Symphony concludes with a celebration of 'The Eternal Feminine' and was dedicated to his wife Alma. This concert features songs and piano music exclusively by female composers who were Mahler's near-contemporaries. The range of nationalities include British, French and American music, as well as Austro-German composers, all of whom were pioneers in their musical world. A wide range of music is performed, works of great variety, colour and beauty.

9 - Echoes of the East

Arensky – Etude on a Chinese theme

Satie – Trois Gnossiennes

Debussy – Pagodes

Ravel – Laideronette

Godowsky - Gamelan (Java Suite)

Busoni – Turandots Frauengemach


Mahler - Das Lied von der Erde

European composers, artists and writers of the early 20th century were increasingly inspired by the exotic lure of the East. The music in this concert is influenced by the sights and sounds of Asia, reflecting the trend of the period. Mahler's song-symphony Das Lied von der Erde sets ancient Chinese texts, and inhabits a unique and personal soundworld. Performed with piano accompaniment, it is an intense and intimate musical experience.

10 - Old World Farewells

Johann Strauss II - Freut euch des Lebens

Schoenberg – Piano piece, Op. 11, No. 3

Berg – Piano Sonata


Mahler - 9th Symphony

The city of Vienna before the First World War was one of the leading centres of radical modernism in music, art and science. Composers such as Arnold Schoenberg (an admirer and friend of Mahler) wrote music that pushed at the boundaries of traditional musical harmony. This concert presents two seminal piano works by Schoenberg and Berg, alongside a Strauss waltz that was to influence Mahler's own Ninth Symphony. The Symphony (the last Mahler was to complete) seems to bid farewell to life, as well as to the old style of music. It is performed in a piano arrangement highlighting both the Romantic and radical elements of the piece.

11 - New Beginnings

Korngold – Ball beim Marchenkonig

Schoenberg – Six Piano Pieces, Op. 19

Busoni – Berceuse

Wagner/Liszt – Liebestod


Mahler - 10th Symphony

In the final concert of this series, several of Mahler's brilliant contemporaries are featured: the young prodigy Korngold, the trailblazer Schoenberg and the futurist Busoni. Wagner's music was always central to Mahler's work and was to influence his final piece, the Tenth Symphony. Although unfinished at the time of his death, Mahler's sketches for the Symphony provide a complete score, unorchestrated and essentially in piano form. The Symphony will be performed in a full piano version, a fitting and moving culmination to Mahler's output.