Solemnly and measured, without dragging, very simple, like a folk-tune, once again somewhat more agitated, as at the start. A funeral march based on the children’s song “Frère Jacques” (or “Bruder Jacob”). The third movement acts as the slow movement in the four-movement plan. The extra-musical idea behind it is that of a hunter’s funeral and a procession of animals that follows.

The Hunter’s Funeral. This woodcut by Moritz von Schwind (1850) was possibly the inspiration for this 3rd movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1.

The initial and recurring melodic material is based on the popular round ‘Bruder Jakob’ (although Mahler calls it ‘Bruder Martin’) more commonly known as ‘Frère Jacques’; however, Mahler places the melody in a minor mode.

The subject is first presented by a solo double bass, followed by bassoon, tuba and, eventually, the entire orchestra. A counter-melody is played over top of the canon in the oboe.

The mood changes, and one of the most distinctive portions of this symphony follows. Mahler uses cymbal, bass drum, oboes, clarinets and a trumpet duo to produce the sound of a small klezmer band; Mahler’s use of klezmer is sometimes accredited to his Jewish roots.

After a brief return to the opening round, a third, more contemplative section ensues, featuring material from the fourth of Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Lied 4: Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz. Finally, Mahler incorporates all three thematic elements on top of each other. However, the components and motifs gradually fall apart, and the movement ends with simple alternating fourths in the lower strings, notably the key motif from the first movement.


  • 003 Double-bass solo.
  • 011 Muted cellos.
  • 015 Bass tuba.
  • 017 First bassoon & first clarinet.
  • 019 Muted violas.
  • 021 First horn.
  • 023 Four flutes. 
  • 025 English horn, two clarinets, & bass clarinet. 
  • 027 Violas & cellos one octave apart.
  • 029 Four muted horns & harp.

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Listening Guide

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