The Anxiety of Influence: Music as Historical Legacy

By Leon Botstein

Written for the concert The Anxiety of Influence: Music as Historical Legacy, performed on Nov 19, 2000 at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.

On the surface of things, the concept of influence seems straightforward. An artist trying to define a space for himself or herself under the weight of tradition is inspired by precursors. She or he selects elements that are useful or admired, interpolates them with implicit commentary of his or her own, and arrives at an “original” production that nevertheless grasps what has gone before. Influence is pervasive and inescapable, even if the artist is a revolutionary and acknowledges the past only to condemn it. In this way history in the arts makes progress.

In 1973, the literary theorist Harold Bloom published a study which questioned this commonsense formulation. In The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry, Bloom explored the psychology of influence, and concluded that it was conflict of Oedipal dimensions between the poet and his or her literary forbearers. It is the struggle of the artist, Bloom argued, to find his or her own voice through an ambivalent, anxiety-ridden relation precisely with those precursors whom they most admire. Through creative misinterpretations of these shadowy figures, the artist, in the very act of holding up certain past artists as admired precursors, also imagines them as incomplete, failing for all their genius, and falling short of the mark that only the present artist is capable of reaching. If the present artist did not believe that, what would be left for him or her to accomplish? Admiration therefore necessarily becomes accusation, and the present artist only discovers his or her own power by distorting, demonizing, and then devouring those influences that he or she loves so much. Originality is achieved in the misinterpretation of the precursor as incomplete, which allows one to write the past according to one’s own agenda, that is, to influence (in imagination) one’s precursors instead of letting them influence one. One unconsciously takes credit for their work and completes their failed intentions in one’s own work. History progresses in the arts if only in the anxious unconscious of the artist.

Bloom’s analysis became enormously influential (indeed a Laius to an entire generation of critics), and has been widely applied not only to literature but many other artistic disciplines including music. A sociological aspect may be added to the theory (not that I am trying to complete it) if the anxiety of influence is also understood as a basically modern phenomenon, for it presumes that slavish imitation and deference to authority are not forced on modern poets and composers. The dilemma faced by Palestrina, for example, in adjusting his style to church authority is different from that encountered by most composers living in the early modern and modern ages, with the obvious exception of those living under dictatorial constraint, as is the case in two of our concerts this season which focus on music composed in the Soviet Union and in Nazi Germany. For the composer with fewer restrictions on the making of art, the abiding motivation since the mid-eighteenth century has been originality, and the oppressive regime has been embodied in those very figures from whom they learned all they know. Today it sometimes seems as though this quest for originality has deteriorated into an addiction simply to what is new. Many composers seem reduced to searching for the most superficial marks of distinctiveness in their desire to do something never done before. It is shallow achievement, however, to substitute novelty for art. As the eminent theorist Leonard B. Meyer points out, many of the greatest composers in the canon of music–Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn among others–were not fundamental innovators of style.

In today’s concert, perhaps the most classic case of the dynamics of the anxiety of influence in both stylistic and psychological terms is in the music of Ernst Krenek. As Matthias Schmidt points out, the young Krenek had the explicit intention of answering Mahler. Krenek exemplifies all six of Bloom’s stages of anxiety: clinamen, or the “correction” of Mahler; tessera, the “completion” of Mahler’s intentions; kenosis, the “emptying” of Krenek’s own egoistic ambition and hence Mahler’s; demonization, the suggestion that Mahler’s work only faintly reflects an artistry that was actually beyond Mahler; askesis, the “diminishment” of Mahler and of Krenek himself; and finally, apophredes, called the return of the dead, in which admiration for Mahler returns in a complete appropriation of his achievement. Can we really hear all this in Krenek’s music? Arguably yes, and if there is any doubt still that Krenek had a complex, personal response to Mahler, we may also consider the psychological implications inherent in the fact that, in addition to his intent to produce a legitimate successor and improvement on Mahler’s symphonic achievement, he also married Mahler’s daughter.

Eventually Krenek became one the most prolific and chameleonesque composers of the twentieth century. He was one of those great figures to whom homage is regularly paid verbally, but who is underrepresented in performance. His output was immense and he took on a striking variety of styles in his dynamic involvement with the influences of the past. In this sense he was much like Picasso, with numerous, distinct periods. But his music reveals that it was not originality in its superficial sense that motivated him, but complex distinctiveness in relation to established systems. In this symphony, notice the Mahlerian elements, and observe their magnificent distortions.

Krenek also wrote a splendid opera, Karl V (1933) as well as one of the most difficult yet outstanding works of choral music of this century, the Lamentations of Jeremiah (1941). He was born and worked in Vienna and spent time in Berlin. He was influenced by many figures ranging from Schreker and Busoni to Schoenberg. Perhaps his most famous moment in music history was his opera Jonny spielt auf (1926), a mixture of verismo and jazz in the German style. It was a sensation and became, to his credit, an emblem of the kind of degenerate music fascists did not appreciate. Krenek later emigrated to America and traveled about, teaching some of that time at Vassar College and Hamline University. He finally settled in Palm Springs, California after marrying the composer Gladys Nordenstrom in 1950. He lived to the venerable age of 91. In his later years, his longevity turned him into the last of the original central European proponents of the avant-garde. In addition to his huge compositional output, he was also a brilliant prose writer. His autobiography (written in English but strangely only available in German), his book on Okeghem, and his trenchant 1949 account of music in America, Music in the Golden West, are a few instances of the genius and versatility of an individual who rightfully became a legend in his own time. Ernst Krenek’s name and place in history are already assured, but we hope his music may come to be more fully appreciated by future generations. To this end we are pleased to participate in his centenary celebration with our chamber and orchestral performances.

The remainder of our program is devoted to two world premieres. It adds a special complication to the theory of the anxiety of influence when works are heard that have never been performed before. We have asked each of the composers to write a few words and by so doing we have tried to let them place their work in a context they consider helpful. Harold Farberman is a composer just celebrating his seventieth birthday, who came of age in the context of a variety of decisive influences. These influences are represented not only by the composers he admires, but by entire cultures, since these composers were very much focused on separating a distinctly American musical tradition from its European precursors. Born into a family of Klezmer musicians, Farberman became one of America’s most precocious and brilliant percussionists. Like Krenek he became a conductor, performer, and teacher. Through his experience as a member of the Boston Symphony, he came to know intimately the Russian and French music of the twentieth century. As a percussionist, however, he was never far from a profound affinity for indigenous American popular music and jazz, much like Copland and Bernstein. And like Bernstein and Gunther Schuller, he was one of the first Americans to embrace the music of Charles Ives, as is apparent in his use of explicit quotations in this work. Also like Bernstein, Farberman was an early proponent of Mahler. His reissued Mahler and Ives recordings have once again been embraced by aficionados as some of the most valuable readings available in the recorded archives. In today’s concert, his presence extends the anxiety of influence to performance as well as composition, since as one of America’s leading pedagogues of conducting, he has profoundly influenced many performers, including myself.

Our concert’s finale is a premiere by Philip Glass, arguably the best know if not the most celebrated American composer of his generation. Glass represents one of the most telling examples of the anxiety of influence in Bloom’s sense. A pioneer of a new style called minimalism, Glass’s most famous works seem to have nothing to do with the complex serial atonal work in which he was trained and produced early in his career. But Glass’s revolution may have been less revolutionary than its surface implies. His apparent departure from the legacy of Schoenberg and Webern may not be a renunciation as much as a fulfillment of their ideals. Schoenberg and Webern were after all ardent neo-classicists. They considered their music to have attained a classical simplicity, a clarity uncluttered by Romantic pretensions. Glass’s own responsive subversion of their techniques eventually led Glass to his own expressive form, the very essence of which is a lucid purity that subverts post-Wagnerian Romanticism. In this purity, one hears many precursors from Bach to the present, transfigured by distilled sounds and structures.

I can perhaps best illustrate the impact of Glass’s shift during the mid-1970s and early 1980s from the predicted trajectory of twentieth century composition and his attainment of his own “strength,” as Bloom calls the transcendence over precursors, with a personal anecdote. During my college years, having decided to become a performer, I vowed never to write music criticism. But in 1981, in a period of depression after the loss of my eight-year-old daughter Abigail, I was persuaded by a friend to begin work again by writing a piece for The New Republic on Glass’s opera Satyagraha. So scandalized was I by what I thought was some inexplicable, incomprehensible distortion of treasured modernist paradigms, that I wrote a vitriolic, defensive, and ultimately envious review. Once it was printed, I realized what I had written was not only embarrassing about what it said about me, but gratuitously unkind in its reactionary response to what was clearly an original and significant occasion in music. My subsequent mortification prevented me from taking advantage of any opportunity to break the awkward silence that persisted during the next few years. Then, as luck would have it, late one evening I had to rush from Caramoor to catch a flight to Europe. When I arrived at the airport, I entered the lounge to discover that the only other occupant of the room was Philip Glass. With characteristic courage and grace, he introduced himself to me with an expression of admiration for several ASO concerts that season. I was only too happy finally to apologize for my unkind and arrogant misrepresentation of his work. The incident reveals how easy it is to misconstrue and even resent the positive originality that results from the artist’s interaction with the past. Some time later, he contributed a setting of Psalm 126 for an ASO benefit concert for the Jerusalem Foundation. Tonight through the good offices and enthusiasm of Jonathan Haas, the American Symphony Orchestra is privileged to premiere Philip Glass’s Double Timpani Concerto.

The question I struggled with prejudicially in that review was the question of what kind of music Philip Glass should have written. The real issue for criticism was whether this new music–the turn in his style–was born of an authentic encounter between the historical moment and a person of talent and conviction–the best possible outcome of the anxiety of influence. The answer in the case of Philip Glass is clearly yes. In today’s performance, we express our belief that he and the other composers represented here will generate considerable anxiety for many generations of composers to come.

Millennium Concerto for Cello and Orchestra

By Harold Faberman

Written for the concert The Anxiety of Influence: Music as Historical Legacy, performed on Nov 19, 2000 at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.


1. Percussion. My experience as a player has been invaluable. Early on, playing drum-set with bands and working with jazz musicians established an immediate and lasting influence. Just after graduating from Juilliard, I joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra percussion section, and my life changed. The twelve-year tenure as a member of one of the world’s greatest orchestras taught me the value of individual contributions to the totality of sound. In simple terms, I feel that a composer’s job is to create and move sound structures. There is no better way of understanding the mechanics of creating sound than first learning how best to recreate it.

2. The Boston Symphony Orchestra: Is there a better training ground for a curious musician? I think not. For forty-six weeks each year I listened to and watched extraordinary musicians perform a huge variety of music, including many world premiere. I learned first hand about every section of a symphony orchestra; what “sounds,” what doesn’t. In pre-concert backstage warm-ups I listened to countless virtuosi test their technical skills on their superb instruments. I heard what was actually possible. It was the ultimate learning laboratory for a fledgling composer. But it was the new works that were a holiday for me. I was a fascinated spectator when well known, respected composers experienced their musical children for the very first time, a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. I was on hand for the triumphs, but I also experienced numerous re-writes, an often fruitless last minute search for coherence after initial compositional miscalculations. Instead of sailing smoothly–no matter the style–the musical ship floated upside down. I learned to identify some of the qualities of miscalculation, but not all. I have created a few upside-down ships myself.

3. Beethoven: Of all the aspects that make Beethoven an astonishing composer, the one element in his compositional arsenal that has never failed to hold my attention is his use of rhythm as structure. His impact on my own thoughts about the use of rhythm (the meat and potatoes of a percussionist’s/composer’s diet) as a compositional tool was immediate and has been lasting. Beethoven’s rock-like sense of pulse not only permeates entire structures, but actually creates the structure it inhabits. His basic rhythmic unit functions as both prime and subsidiary materials, while at the same time re-inventing itself into new but related musical shapes. Imagining the idea of pulse as the entire music and actually articulating the concept inventively is a Beethoven specialty akin to watching a fireworks display.

4. Charles Ives: In a very different way, Ives has been as much of an influence as has Beethoven. For example, where Beethoven is fastidious about his rhythmic structures, Ives is almost careless, even sloppy. Often the number of beats over a series of measures does not add up correctly. It doesn’t matter. The idea of the music is paramount, and Ives dreamed up music unlike any other. He took enormous risks, and he believed. How can you not respond to a composer who adds a margin note for the performer that reads, “play as fast as possible without disabling yourself?”

When I first encountered Ives’s music and began recording his works almost forty years ago, he was a curiosity, an Americana footnote. There were books, almost no recordings, and if the truth be told, little interest in the music. The Philharmonia in London had never heard of Ives nor read a note of his music when we recorded his four symphonies. At the conclusion of the sessions the orchestra chairman came to me and indicated that the orchestra would like to know more of the music of Ives: “he’s a bloke with something to say.” Indeed he was/is/ The music–first, last, always, any and all ways. What a spirit! How can a kindred spirit not be influenced?

The Millennium Concerto for Cello

Movement One: Hurryin’/Scurryin’-before 2000-fast, slow, fast

The basically hectic, sometimes humorous, always rhythmically motivated quality of the music, including the slower middle section, is meant to depict the state of our times as we rushed toward the year 2000. The solo voice is energetic, athletic, yearning, and finally frantic. As the movement ends, the soloist continues to mime the frenzy of the concluding music. The mime movements become less agitates and finally cease as the second movement begins with off-stage sounds.

Movement Two: Dreamin’-slowly, fast, slowly

A slow lyrical movement with a single rapid interruption, the music represents the soloist’s hope-for state of the world in the twenty-first century. The movement ends quietly and peacefully. The spotlight fades and the lights on the stage return to full power. The third movement begins.

Movement Three: Rememberin’ The Past-2000!-various tempi

The final movement is a look backward before the arrival of the millennium, using the voice of the cello as a measuring rod of our march through time. Snippets and pieces of the cello music of the composers that have been chosen are reworked and combined in various ways. Vivaldi, C.P.E. Bach and Haydn are treated separately, Haydn in a quasi-jazz manner. Schumann and Tchaikovsky are quoted at length, simultaneously. Dvor ák and Bloch are linked momentarily followed by a cadenza-like section based on Schumann and Dvorák. A few notes of Barber and Shostakovich are joined together and speak to us of recent cello history. In a happy accident the notes in the Barer-Shostakovich combination have precisely the same interval cell as the opening of Movement One. Serendipity. The flow to the conclusion of the movement seemed pre-ordained as the Millennium concerto ends with the arrival of the year 2000–not with the dream of Movement Two, but with a return to the music of Movement One. End of the century, beginning of a new century, nothing has changed. Reality prevails.

Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra

By Jonathan Haas

Written for the concert The Anxiety of Influence: Music as Historical Legacy, performed on Nov 19, 2000 at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.

Jonathan Haas approached me almost ten years ago with an invitation to write a Timpani Concerto for him. It seemed we were in agreement to begin our project when a series of operas and symphonic commissions led to a series of postponements. Now, almost ten years later, the work is finally completed–a three movement concerto with cadenza. It has also grown into a “double” concerto requiring two timpanists playing a total of nine timpani between them with half a dozen orchestras ready to perform it in its first year. Jonathan and their resident timpanist will be the dual soloists. I am delighted to be able to present the completed work and I commend Jonathan for his patience and undiminished enthusiasm.

Philip Glass

When I initially set out to commission a timpani concerto, I had no idea that it would take this long to develop and bring to fruition. After having been active as a solo timpani recitalist, founding my jazz timpani ensemble, and even making some head way (with my timps) into the world of rock music, I still had a strong desire to break through the concerto concept. I made up my mind to select two composers whose music I really admired and who I thought might be open to writing a concerto for timpani. I chose Frank Zappa and Philip Glass. To my sorrow, Frank passed away far too soon, but I was able to pursue the idea with Philip, with whom I had had several opportunities to work. I performed a piece for double bass and timpani entitled Prelude to an End Game, which I presented in a recital at the 92nd Street Y. It was a great success, and I believe it was this that began to spark Philip’s interest in my work as a solo timpanist. After many starts and stops, we were finally able to pull together a consortium of orchestras to organize the commission and perform the piece. Philip composed it, and today you will be the first audience to witness the culmination of this long journey.

This work is divided into three movements: Fast, Slower, and Very Fast, with a cadenza between the second and third movements. In the greatest tradition of cadenza-composing, this one comes with an alternative–even before the piece has been performed! The first was composed by Glass and the second written by xylophonist Ian Finkel. Any timpanists performing the Concerto may choose for themselves which one to perform.

Thematically this Concerto sounds to me purely American, heroic in nature and derivation. From the opening bars, one is quite sure that a new sound has been created by combining the incredibly large sonorities of the fourteen timpani with the full orchestra. As is the case with all of Glass’s work, the repeating figures actually move along at a pace. Keys are established but moved through at an astonishingly fast rate, which also makes for some very quick tuning changes in the timpani parts. The underlying rhythm is always motoric and grooving.

The second movement contains recognizable Glass harmonies and illusions to masses of people moving in slow and colorful lines. The movement of minor to major key centers allows the timpani to at one time sound very dark and foreboding, and in the major keys, very bright and hopeful. Ian Finkel, in his editing of the solo parts, has cleverly woven into the fabric of the piece obbligato passages in one timpani part, while using the other to sustain the melody with the various grouping of instruments from within the orchestra. The slow moment is brought to its conclusion with a beautiful reiteration of the theme subject, played only by the duo timpanists.

Today we have chosen to perform the Finkel cadenza, which takes its material from the theme of the first moment. Utilizing the strengths of the percussion section, the timpanists trade motives in a virtuosic and compelling manner.

The Finale is a mixed meter, dance-like from, shifting between 4/4 and 7/8 time signatures. This kind of shifting certainly comes from the many influences of world music that permeates Glass’s recent works. To me it sounds like a wild dervish that might accompany a shaman in some far off fantasized nation. The thematic material, alluding again to the first movement, has a wit about it which when heard coming from the timpani, is paradoxically charming and compelling at the same time. The closing moments of the piece emphasize the sheer athleticism and power of two timpanists double stroking in sixteenth notes as they reach a wonderful zenith and conclusion.

It has taken ten years from my initial idea for the commission to its premiere. When the Concerto’s title was finally arrived at, I told Philip it was a sort of double entendre, because this Concerto, a Fantasy in the compositional sense, is also certainly a fantasy come true for me. I did not realize this project alone, however. Judith Frankfurt is to be credited with making the orchestra consortium happen and successfully applying to Meet the Composer. No only did she open doors for this project that no one else could have opened, but we had great fun working together and sharing our success and some failures together. In addition to Judith’s great work, I received some valuable advice from Katherine Cahill. It was her suggestion to commission a double concerto so that the timpanist of each consortium member-orchestra would have an opportunity to solo with me if they wished. The final piece in this puzzle was Leon Botstein, music director of the American Symphony Orchestra. Even before I received the grant from Meet the Composer, Maestro Botstein stepped up to the plate and guaranteed the concerto would be commissioned, regardless of the outcome of the grant. He believed in my commitment as a solo timpanist and shared in my vision that Philip Glass should write such a concerto. I would like to thank all these friends for making this concerto possible, as well as fellow timpanists David Fein, James Baker, and Ben Herman. I would like also to thank Ian Finkel for his invaluable advice and talent, and Svetoslav Stoyanov, with whom I am performing the concerto’s premiere today. The American Symphony Orchestra, the primary member of the consortium, also has my deepest thanks both for this performance, and for all the hard work its staff put into the effective management of the consortium.

I have found that Philip has a very specific idea of how the Concerto is to reach the audience. With his guidance and the support of the fine orchestras of the consortium, I feel the effect of this unique work will reach many people in many different ways.

Symphony No. 2, Op. 12

By Matthias Schmidt

Written for the concert The Anxiety of Influence: Music as Historical Legacy, performed on Nov 19, 2000 at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.

In 1916, in the midst of World War I, Ernst Krenek began his career as a professional artist. The sixteen-year-old started studying with Franz Schreker at the music academy in Vienna and wrote his first truly ambitious chamber music works. In late November that same year the Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph died, the last representative of a world irrevocably lost in the turmoil of the Great War. Krenek later recalled the general “shockwave” caused by the 86-year old emperor’s death: “Even more clearly than at the outbreak of war people realized that an era had come to an end”. At the same time, the arts also stood on the verge of a major transition. An uncertain search for traditions had begun, a search for traditions already lost. If the expressionistic music of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern around 1910 hinted at the turn of the tide, the numerous musical trends of the 1920s (from Neoclassicism to Neue Sachlichkeit) displayed it in its full score. It was in this time of transition from the old to the new that Ernst Krenek began to explore his own artistic identity.

Schreker at first acquainted Krenek with the world of traditional music by giving him a solid knowledge of counterpoint. But when in 1920 Krenek followed his teacher from Vienna to the Academy of Music in Berlin, his desire for innovation exploded. His encounters with Ferruccio Busoni, Eduard Erdmann, and Artur Schnabel rapidly broadened his musical horizons. While his early works were in a late Romantic style that resembled Max Reger and Richard Strauss, he now turned to radical atonality. As a result of this development Krenek became more and more estranged from his teacher Schreker and eventually left the Academy without graduating. Even so, he soon became one of the most important young composers of the post-war era, enjoying a reputation as an enfant terrible of contemporary music after the premiere of his String Quartet No. 1 in 1921.

Probably the most important work of this period is the Second Symphony, which Krenek finished on May 22, 1922 after only eight weeks of composing. In it, Krenek continued his quest for an immediate link to tradition. His regard for the continuity of history hides behind the very decision to compose a symphony, an exalted genre if there was one.

At the same time that Igor Stravinsky subjected Baroque music to the cool and distancing techniques of alienation (Pulcinella), and Paul Hindemith wrote ironic ragtimes (Suite 1922), Krenek consciously invoked an artist who himself had already shouldered the full burden of tradition in his own oeuvre: Gustav Mahler. In Krenek’s Second Symphony there is an almost tangible energy field built up by the confrontation between the young composer and his “mentor” Mahler. The fear of being influenced generally results from an awareness of a predecessor’s strong presence in one’s own consciousness. It always threatens to paralyze creativity when a role model becomes too powerful. To use the terms of psychology, Mahler plays the role of “super-ego” to Krenek in this symphony. He represents a force from which the young composer has to wrest his own originality. A biographical detail underscores the latent Freudian conflict between father and son. Shortly before he wrote his symphony, he had met Mahler’s daughter Anna and married her not much later. He personally reported that the “rapid intensification” of his relationship with Anna Mahler inspired him to “start a new, large-scale symphonic work”. Indeed, he completed the symphony in the house of Mahler’s widow in Breitenstein (not far from Vienna) and shortly afterwards undertook the task of editing Mahler’s sketches of the tenth symphony.

It almost seems as if Krenek had intentionally sought the proximity of Mahler’s surroundings, even though they were also an aesthetic burden to him. It is no coincidence that Krenek later described the symphony with phrases like “a giant raging in a cage” or his own efforts as “dreadful exertions to break through the bars”. But he also spoke of “sad resignation”, of “enduring the close space the giant is locked up in” and his “wild jumping around in the cage in a sort of desperate dance, thereby making a virtue of necessity”. Repeatedly, Krenek also mentioned the “symbolic meaning of captivity and longing for freedom”. For him, the end of the symphony is not a resolution of conflict, but “sounds like a racing charge aiming at the acceptance of the contradictions as an ordainment of higher powers” and “allowing the conflicting elements” to coexist side by side.

Mainly gestural elements like fanfares, nature sounds, choral-like passages, marching-band rythms, and long melodic lines are reminiscent of Mahler’s vocabulary. Even though the work is atonal, ghosts of the past tonal idiom waft through it. Krenek himself described the experience of the work as one of “melancholy nostalgia”, as when “visiting ruins”. The last movement in particular recalls, in its broad arch of tension, the tradition of Mahler’s great symphonic Adagios, especially in the ninth and tenth symphonies. Mahler’s music itself laid bare the dissolution of an era, looked back upon a dying musical world. The farewell gesture in his late Adagio movements is occasionally so harsh and bold that it anticipates the most advanced music of our times. Krenek’s Symphony openly reveals the abysses beneath surface beauty of Mahler’s music, which itself had lay bare a tradition run dry. Krenek exaggerates Mahler’s dissolution of tonality, fragmented forms, and unrelentingly strict inner structures with an intensity that is almost apocalyptic. Krenek thereby aggressively pushes his anxiety of influence to the forefront. He himself observed that he “waged his war against the existing order on its own ground”. Thus, rather than attempting to provide supposed solutions or to suppress the conflict, Krenek makes conflict itself the focus of the work. This is the secret of the shocking impact of Krenek’s dark, catastrophic apotheosis of Mahler.