Listening Guide – Blumine


In the original version of the first Symphony written in 1889, a movement that Mahler entitled Blumina, to follow the first movement. It was apparently written as a love song for the wife of a composer called Maria von Weber’s grandson with whom Mahler had had an affair.
Mahler himself called the movement A Love Episode, after the performance of the complete original version of the symphony and Weimar in 1893, Mahler deleted Blumina and omitted it from the published editions of 1899 and 1906. There is much controversy about the reasons for Mahler’s decision, apparently, Mahler was advised by his publisher Weiberger, that the symphony was already too long, especially with too slow movements, including Blumina and that as the weakest movement will mean it could easily be dispensed with.
Mahler also had misgivings about its musical content, he thought it too sentimental, insufficiently symphonic, and less sophisticated than the remaining movements. Many years later, Mahler referred to Blumine as a blunder of youth. Alma Mahler told us that her husband said to her that he removed it because of too strong a similarity of the keys and neighboring movements. But as with many almost contentions, this statement may be untrustworthy. Since the main keys of a movement, C major and A minor do not figure substantially in the other movements.
Donald Mitchell suggests that the principal theme of booming is in fact Werner’s trumpet tune from Mahler’s last incidental music for the Tableau Vyanse based upon a play by Nestor, entitled The Trumpeter of Sackingen. But the excessive repetition of the sentimental trumpet tune with its mental sonian charm is too insubstantial to serve even as a diversion in such a dramatic Symphony.

Mahler had probably already destroyed the second music has Juvenilia, he may well have considered blooming in this category.
The movement does contain some interesting details and transitions, though not enough to make it distinctive. Despite his essentially negative view of blooming up Mahler scholar Jack Diether points to what he believes to be a reference to the trumpet’s tune in the finale, which provides a structural argument for including the movement in performance. Michel disagrees, he is willing to accept the similarity to the main theme to the post-horn solo from the Third Symphony, what no more whatever the reason for its exclusion and subsequent suppression, we are fortunate that a manuscript of gloominess surface several years ago, giving us an opportunity to draw our own conclusions about its merits and demerits, and whether the occasional performance of it is justifiable.

A simple tripart song form, A-B-A, this brief serenade is lightly orchestrated and delicately scored. A solo trumpet carries the principal theme that follows a brief poetic string introduction.

Though charming, frequent repetition of this theme, with little significant development, has been the subject of much criticism. Its urbane expression seems to detract from the dramatic nature of the other movements.
Just as disconcerting is its tendency towards strict symmetric reality with heavily accented falling semi tonal a partitures proceeding every important note in the melody. More interesting than the threadbare A section is the middle section set in the relative minor key.
Here Mahler utilizes some creative key modulations and delightfully provocative inner voice details in the surrounding transitions.

When the A section returns the main theme is played with some instrumental variety but little melodic convention, leading to a brief closing quote.
Although few will disagree about Blumine’s lack of sophistication and soupy sentimentality, the value of an occasion performance with an explanation of its relationship to the rest of the symphony should be acknowledged. Yet Mahler’s final wishes should not be ignored. Certainly, the symphony stands well on its own without the precious little flower that once graced it.

By Lew Smoley

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