Listening Guide – Movement 1: Langsam (Adagio) – Allegro risoluto, ma non troppo


Mahler begins the Seventh Symphony with the first movement in classically oriented those substantially expanded sonata form. Radical harmonic deviations occur with disturbing frequency. Brass dominate the orchestration of the principal march subjects, but take a backseat to the strings for the movements lyrical themes, Straussian super romantic effects contrast with harmonies that border on Schoenberg in a tonality or by tonality, extreme temporal contrasts and radical changes in mood, subvert the musical flow, and create a sense of instability, as in the two previous symphonies. Here such sudden shifts heightened the fantastical and paradistic nature of the music rather than generating angst or violence.

Unlike the dramatically focused opening movements of the fifth and sixth symphonies, the first movement of the seventh seems to be pure musical abstraction, devoid of implicit programmatic content, or philosophical orientation. What we have here appears to be a formally constructed sonata movement, with an expansive introduction and exposition containing three contrasting themes, an extensive development, recapitulation, and lengthy coda. Its formal design is comparable to that of the six symphonies finale. Both movements begin with long introductions segmented into subdivisions, which increase in tempo and urgency as they lead gradually but purposefully to their respective first Allegro themes.

These introductions contain musical material that recurs during the course of the movement, and contains elements that will find their way into the principal themes. Both movements also share a segment of galloping rhythms that brings Shostakovich music to mind. The sixth and seventh symphonies have other common elements. The first exposition theme of the seventh opening movement is closely related to its counterpart in the sixth, dotted march rhythms predominate. The interval or the fourth plays a significant role in the more forceful themes. Both first movements have three main themes, and the rhapsodic third subject of the seventh opening movement recalls the almost theme of the sixth. The first movement of the Third Symphony also shares some of these similarities in form and substance, particularly the integration of motivic material from the introduction into the movements, principal themes, and the appearance of recitative arioso like passages in both first subjects, accompanied by long stretches of tremeloes and funeral march rhythms.

Because of the absence of any clear cut program, some commentators have extrapolated a night symbolism from the to nacht music movements the second and the fourth, to explain the first movements darker aspects, while others focus on Mahler’s comments about musical details to find evidence to relate the movement to the presumed night days subtext.

Donald Mitchell describes the movement as an evocation of the dark side of nature. He bases this notion upon Mahler’s comment that he discovered the opening rhythm while rolling. This rhythm sounds like Steine die ins Wasser, stones plopping in the water. That the opening tenor horn solo roars like nature itself, and bird calls appear in the development section, Mitchell also supports his claim by pointing to the predominance of minor key tonality, the use of heavy brass and the movements dynamic themes, and the occurrence of weighty passages that evoke images reminiscent of the first subject of a third symphonies first movement, which represents the dark side of nature.
Wilhelm Mengelberg suggests that the movement is dominated by the tragic and elemental power of death utilizing the night symbolism, he sees this music as evoking a dark night of the soul lightened only by vain aspirations toward light and love.

Paul Becker views the movement in purely musical terms as a defiance of the perception of sound. He focuses upon what he calls the lack of consideration for harmony in the use of superimposed fourths by tonality and violent keyswitches bar after bar.

Combining a consideration of form and substance, Theodor W. Adorno suggests that in this movement, Mahler quote, translates the achievements in form of the middle Symphony Allegro’s into the world of Wunderhorn fantasy. What seems lacking in these comments is an implicit inner program or Quasar narrative conception, comparable to those of the fifth and sixth simplest, elements of parody, more easily identifiable in the second through fifth movements seem absent in the first, or at least not obvious.
Redlich suggestion that Mahler merely reused the six symphonies first movement form, adding an extensive introduction comparable to the one crafted for the finale of that Symphony completely misses the point for it is just this form that is the subject of parody in the seventh symphonies first movement.

In the first movements of the second, third, fifth, and sixth symphonies, funeral or martial rhythms, and corresponding thematic material evoke the tragic aspect of life, or the image of a battle between positive and negative forces within the human spirit. The dark mood of the seventh first movement does not persistently express suffering, anguish or torment, no raging conflict tears at the heartstrings. The funeral march of the introduction, may be lugubrious, but it is hardly mournful. It may be steeped in mystery, but does not engender angst or rage. Valle harmonies in a minor key rarely associated with tragedy, create instead an opaque contemplative atmosphere. The opening funeral march is hardly tragic when compared with its parallel subjects in the third and fifth symphonies. Rhythmic support, unlike the rhythm of rolling consists of double dotted notes that lend a Baroque quality to the introduction. Nor is the tenor horn theme with which the movement opens more and full or grim.

The addition of a sixth to the harmonic basis of this theme undermines any such characterization. Frequent use of seventh intervals adds a tinge of the grotesque rather than the mournful especially in conjunction with his incorporation into the melody of the funeral march rhythm. Death seems less horrible in this guy’s despite the music’s gray overtones, and strange rhythmic and linear configuration. Even the principal themes do not project themselves as authentic dramatic characterizations, a comparison of the first theme of the seventh first movement with its counterpart and the first movement of the sixth is telling the former as all the swagger but none of the heroic quality of the latter. Similarly, the lyrical third theme tries to be as rhapsodic as the Alma theme from the sixth symphonies first movement when it’s feigns romanticism seems inauthentic and schmaltzy in comparison.

To presume that Mahler simply lost his touch, and failed to create another grand first movement is to seriously underestimate the depth and dimension of his creative genius. The first movements overall tonal progression mirrors that of the symphony as a whole, beginning in the minor key and ending in the major.
During the development section modulations are so bold that tonal centers are sometimes difficult to determine. The tonality with which the movement begins is so strongly directed toward B minor, that it takes some time to finally establish the principle key of E minor. For this reason, a few commentators consider B minor to be the seventh principal King. A hint of C major is heard briefly during the development section, foreshadowing its appearance as the predominant key in the finale, where its sun-drenched brilliance, will dispel the shadows of night evoked in the fourth movement. Horn signals, birdcalls, march rhythms and brass corrals recall many first movements of Mahler’s previous Symphony, but here they seem ill used sounding banal rather than heroic, pastoral, or spiritually uplifting. Even the opening funeral march tread not only fails to evoke a sense of either mournfulness or dread turns into an energetic gallop, that races into the aggressive march of the expositions for a subject. The characteristically funeral rhythm is broken apart and transformed into melodic material by modifying it with false relations and dissonant intervals. It is unclear what instrument Mahler actually intended by the designation, tenor horn, or tenor tuba in B flat for the opening theme. He might have been referring to a German tenor tuba, but it’s Tamriel quality is too distended for the opening theme.
Norman Del Mar suggests that Mahler meant a tenor saxhorn which was an obscure instrument even in Mother’s Day, most conductors use a baritone horn, the tambour of which seems appropriate for the tenor horn part, although it’s very names seems to contradict molars denomination of a brass instrument in the tenor range.

The first movement begins with an extensive introduction, consisting of four subsections that contain thematic and rhythmic material that will be used in the principal themes of the exposition, a characteristic of Mahler’s creative process. In a slow tempo, the movement starts off with a Baroque-like rhythm that is more likely to have appeal to Mahler, because of its appearance in several of Verdi’s operas, during scenes that deal with the death of the hero or heroine. Here are three brief examples:

-First, from the last act of La Traviata.

– Next from the Miserere in Il trovatore.

– and last from the finale of the La Forza del Destino.

As in these Verdi operas, the opening of the seventh uses this funeral rhythm as background here played softly by woodwinds and strings, at the motive sounds more ponderous and sluggish than tragic in comparison with a stark character and unnerving force of its use in verities operas it is as if the thought of death was no longer so frightening, but only clouded in mystery.

The tenor horn enters in the middle of the third measure, to play a theme that is based in part upon the verity and motto rhythm. Intervals of a seventh give it a grotesque character, but fail to engender either sorrow or terror, Mahler cleverly introduces the motive of the devils dance as a natural outgrowth of the Verity and rhythmic figure. Given that both are based upon dactylic rhythm, long-short-short, sometimes reconstituted into an anapestic rhythm in reverse, short-short-long. A comparison of the opening measures of both these symphonies is quite revealing. Here is the related segment from the third symphonies first movement.

Both movements use similar musical material but project very different atmospheres. If the opening section of the seventh first movement was intended to be a funeral march, it appears more impish than mournful. It’s dark shading, neither sinister nor tragic.

After the tenor horn theme is developed to the accompaniment of variations on its rhythm, it can opponents in woodwinds and violins the tonality cadences into B major to begin the second subsection in a slightly faster it’s still very measured tempo vacillating between G and B major woodwinds and then violins play a little strutting march to its clipped dotted rhythms will become a primary element of the exposition second theme, as this scribe march continues, strong emphasis on the last beat of each measure, sets it slightly off balance.

As we just heard, in the last two bars of this subsection, a trumpet, and then horns play a fragment of the tenor horn theme, consisting of the anapestic figure that is derived from the verity and death motto as an inverted version of the devil’s dance motif. It ushers in the third subsection of the introduction, as the key changes to E flat minor, verity, and rhythmic motto is now played more rapidly as accompaniment for a new forceful march theme in the trombones that anticipates the expositions first theme. It’s double dotted rhythm related to the verity and motif. Rising triplets give the impression of military signals, thus keynoting the motif of the hero, while falling fourths are characteristically Mahlerian.

The music suddenly slows down and comes to a complete stop midway through what appears to be the beginning of further thematic development. The opening measures of the introduction return in B minor, and in the original tempo. Again, the funeral rhythms sound muffled against the tenor horns bold statement of a variation of the trombones marching tune from the preceding third subsection. It appears to be a variation of the tenor horns opening theme. A solo trumpet develops this thematic variant briefly. When the strings restate the trombones version of this marching tune to the propulsive verity and rhythm played by the horns, the tempo begins to press forward. horns rest the theme from the strings and the woodwinds, while strings pick up the underlying rhythmic pulse. Violins and flutes embellish the theme with waves of intermittent rapid flourishes on increasingly extended 32nd notes. When the tempo becomes even more lively, the Verdian motto rhythm attains a full gallop, accompanying the trombone theme, here played by horns, as if moving toward a preordained goal. Still advancing with increasing speed the trumpets take over the trombone theme in a brief transitional passage, which concludes the introduction and ushers in the exposition.

When a galloping rhythm is firmly established, the exposition begins with horns and cellos, boldly stating the first theme in E minor. Its overall shape is related both to the trombones marching tune from the third subsection of the introduction, and the first theme of the corresponding movement from the sixth Symphony, but sounding more pompous than heroic, rising chordal triplets that become part of the theme as it progresses, tried to make the theme sound more heroic, as they did in both the first movement of the Fifth Symphony and the finale of the sixth, as well as the Wunderhorn song Revelge. The falling fourth, and clipped dotted rhythms are prominent thematic components.
Devilish trills galloping rhythms and extrapolation of the theme on quarter note triplets combined to produce a spectral quality that seems out of keeping with the first subject martial bearing.
As the first subject runs its course, its galloping theme turns into a whopping figure that hurries the music along. Mahler shifts the weight of the themes, opening notes from the strong to the weak beat, throwing the theme off balance, and recalling a similar occurrence during the introduction. Here is the beginning of the exposition and the first theme.

As the first theme quiets down quickly in the bass strings jump in at mid-measure, with a forceful thrust to begin the second theme in B major. It is virtually launched from this upward thrust into a clip-dotted rhythm, which provides its primary content. The sense of imbalance created during the close of the first theme, by shifting the center of gravity to the second beat continues with added emphasis by forcing the second theme to begin on an emphatic upbeat, thus weakening the succeeding downbeat. As a counterweight to the clip to the dotted rhythm, horns add a falling chromatic figure that contains a galloping dactylic rhythm. A brief lyrical phrase tries to temper the surging power of the willful second theme, but it’s martial rhythm returns, accompanied by military signals in woodwinds.

Without preparation, the first theme suddenly returns in the home key on winds and bass strings with violins and then timpani, urging it forward on the galloping rhythm.
After the first theme calms down, a lush, romantic version of a lyrical phrase from the second subject over a B drone in the base, provides a brief bridge passage that anticipates the upcoming third theme. As the return of the first theme begins to subside, the tonality makes its way to C major for the rhapsodic third theme. Although the meter shifts to common time, 4/4 the pace remains constant. A lavish Straussian theme is played effusively by the violins its bright C major, anticipating the principal key of the finale. The theme’s central expression, evoked through frequent use of chromatic passing tones, recalls the Alma theme of the Sixth Symphony. Arpeggios and low strings enhance the themes romantic flavor, briefer, moderns, on principle tones within the theme, given a languishing character, as do falling chromatics in horns, here is the third theme.

Mahler includes the four-node motive some to the words Der tag ist schön, in the fourth song of Kindertotenlieder that appears in virtually every work Mahler wrote after that song cycle. This motive gives the theme of a slightly plaintive character, the clipped falling second that follows this motif is also a typically Mahlerian and thematic figure, let’s listen.

Mahler elicits a sense of deep yearning in a repeated figure based upon the motive of longing in violins.

Becoming increasingly passionate, the lush third theme climbs to the heights, holding tenaciously to its top notes with brief from others. Mahler uses a similar technique to engender intense passion in the fifth symphonies, Adagietto and the sixth symphonies Andante, as this amorous theme continues, a single measure in C minor intrudes like a dark cloud, but a strong chromatic pull upward into the major quickly rests the theme away from the clutches of this affection for it surges forward once again ablaze with Arden passion. As the third theme reaches its high point, the key changes to G major and the Allegro tempo flings the third theme aside for the return of the first theme, with its impulsive energy undiminished. Here the first theme reappears not in the treble but in the bass against a rising counter theme in the treble on dotted rhythms. The martial rhythm of the introduction second segment now returns with biting acuity in Wigan’s in strings, sounding rather devilish when played on the glockenspiel. Quickly the tempo becomes more vigorous reprise of the first subject ends the exposition with the downward pull of the march tune from the introduction’s second subsection. This stalwart march may be sourced in token fire, and recalls the heroic subject of the six symphonies first movement.

The development section begins with an inverted statement of the first theme in the principal Allegro tempo here to be played somewhat more widely than before. After a series of overlapping thematic permutations, with a broadened version of the first theme played by the horns, a hint of the original form of the first theme appears on the first trumpet, accompanied by descending trills in woodwinds, Tremeloes, and chordal pizzicato in strings, as well as a variant of the galloping rhythm on the triangle. horns and cellos follow on the theme proper, while violins take up the galloping rhythm against its whooping version in woodwinds. The glockenspiel adds sparkle to the martial rhythms on which the theme is extended.

Without much ado, the second theme jumps in as the first ends. Mahler now subjects the second theme to a variety of developmental techniques, focusing as he did with the first theme on inversion and canonic imitation.
The Devil’s dance motif makes an appearance, adding a sinister quality to the music, but also recalling the introduction. While the galloping rhythm and the falling quarter note couplets associated with the first theme are included in the development of the second slyly the tenor horn sneaks in for a moment, with the opening phrase of its introductory theme, set against the verity and rhythm as the tenor becomes more moderate for a brief bridge passage to the next section.

The Rapsodic third subject returns now rather subdued and in B minor. As a calm yet mysterious atmosphere descends over the music, the second theme is dotted rhythm in both its initial falling version, and an inverted rising variant hovers over the murky stillness that seems foreign to the nature of the music. Trying to regain its former passion, the third theme rises on a sequence of ascending scales that fail to engender much emotion, remaining soft and unassuming. Suddenly the first trumpet breaks up this momentary law with a strong yet grotesquely distorted variant of the first theme in the main Allegro tempo.

All three principal themes now combined in fascinating contrapuntal interplay. As they wind round each other, the three themes take on characteristics of each other. Even the march rhythm appears, but as an unaccustomed accompaniment to the lyrical third theme, it is a remarkable feat of dexterity to combine such diverse thematic material so that they fit together naturally, and even become integral parts of each other. As the third theme tries to break away, on an ascending sequence of the Der tag ist schön motif, the march tread of the introduction second subsection enters in muted brass, ushering in the return of the exposition second theme, as the key signature changes to G major. This time the clipped dotted rhythm that initiates this theme is played on the first beat instead of as an upbeat into the measure. The descending chromatic figure played forcefully by the horns, is reconfigured to sound like a fragment of the Verity and rhythm.
The motif of the hero presented by trumpet tattoos, thus far absent, but not unexpected, appears in the first trumpet on a military signal in rising chordal triplets. It soon replaces the descending chromatic figure from the second theme. For a moment, the third theme tries to assert itself on a sequence of rising eighth’s seeking to displace the shades of darkness. At the height of this ascending phrase, the third theme is engulfed by the falling dotted rhythmic thrust that begins the second theme and increasingly prominent military horn calls. A powerful stroke on the glockenspiel and triangle cuts off the second theme, and the music quiets down on sustained violin Tremeloes. We’ll hear the passage that leads into the reprise of the second theme, and beyond.

Trumpet tattoos incorporating the Verity and motto rhythm, mark the appearance of the hero. The tattoos intrude upon the music’s quiescence, and the tempo becomes more measured with their steady martial rhythms. In the brief interlude that follows transitioning into the return of the first theme, trumpet signals alternate with the low woodwind soft, solemn chorale, based upon an elongated version of the introduction’s second subject that recalls the weighty brass chorales of the sixth Symphony. The key changes to E flat major, while several short motives drift into different keys momentarily, a variant the galloping rhythm and flutes follow the last trumpet volley. Again a mysterious atmosphere, the clouds the music with shades of night, until an oboe enters with the falling clipped dotted rhythm of the second theme. It is not that theme, however that follows, but the first theme, which enters unexpectedly in the English horn.

Uncharacteristically, this martial theme is played quietly and calmly in contrary motion between the English worn and solo violin against a sparse orchestral background. The first theme is then extended on the rising chromatic eighth node sequence from the third theme, against triplet tattoos from the second theme, played staccatissimo by the first flute. Once again, Mahler brilliantly combines elements from all three principal themes, so as to make them virtually indistinguishable. Emphasis on the dotted rhythmic figure of the first theme, second measure makes it sound like the second theme, which begins on a dotted rhythm developed independently. Although the Verity in motto rhythm is absent here, the marching pulse is established and maintained by stringing together march themes, muted low strings create an aura of mystery on the introduction second subject itself a little marching tune, after which oboes and violins play the staccato rising triplets that ended the initial statement of the first subject. This segment closes as the clarinets who were asked to play like trumpets call out demonstrably on an inversion of the opening clip dotted rhythm on the second theme, played over the major to minor chordal motive of fate punctuated by a vibrant stroke on the glockenspiel.

The hushed high B flat tremolo that earlier preceded the trumpet tattoos returns to serve the same function. In what follows material from the introduction reappears in various guises. The trumpet tattoos enter quietly in E flat minor, and incorporate an arpeggiated variant of the staccato triplets from the first theme. Pi woodwinds play, the rhythmic Verity and motto as a natural adjunct to the trumpet tattoos, themselves modeled in part on that rhythm. Once again, the atmosphere darkens and becomes mysterious, the single measure chorale that previously alternated with trumpet fanfares also returns, now played softly and haltingly in bassoon and most strings. This time, however, it has an interchange with the Verity and rhythmic model asserted intently on a flute with the trumpet call pronounced forcefully on a clarinet. Trumpets quietly add the upward thrust of the inverted dotted rhythmic figure that preceded the return of the fanfare chorale segment and is sourced in the second theme. A luminous glow emerges from the brass and cellos as they softly and gently in tone, the arching motive of redemption, followed by an inversion of the dotted rhythm that begins the second theme.

This heavenly passage welds up into a huge cadence on a long ascending harp glissando. A sequence of ascending arpeggios in two harps imitating the strumming of a guitar. anticipate the enchanting sounds of an evening serenade in the second knock music movement. bathed in billowy arpeggios embellished with woodwind trills, luxuriant violins rhapsodize on the third theme in B major, as if transported to a state of pure bliss. No sooner to the violins begin their rapturous treatment of this theme, than to horns quietly state the beginning of the first theme, while three trumpets whispered tattoos from the preceding section, with the rising dotted rhythmic figure that might serve as a summons to battle if projected more strongly in a very broad temple. The third theme combines with fragments of the first theme and the little marching tune from the introduction second subsection punctuated by intimate references to the Verity and rhythmic motto.
The juxtaposition of lyrical melody with flickering rhythmic figures anticipates a similar contrast between melodic and rhythmic material in the second nacht music. Go into woven these diverse themes create a surprisingly light textured musical fabric. Their contrapuntal interplay builds to a climax of profound pathos. It features the dare tog is churn motor from the third theme, combined with a descending chromatic variant of the introduction second subject.

Rising dotted rhythmic figuration begins to take hold in the brass, supported by an ascending phrase from the second part of the third theme, as the music moves to a cadential climax.
When a heavily accented descending phrase played with extremely forced by the violins is on the verge of reaching closure, the anticipated cadences aborted while the unexpected return of the movements opening section wrenched out of dreams of Central delight, we awaken to the lugubrious strains of the Verity and rhythmic motto.

It feels as if the bottom just fell out of the music, and we are left at the ground floor with the introduction. It is also an unusual but not unprecedented deviation from standard sonata form, using the introduction as its own Quasar recapitulation, which also functions as a transition to the reprise of the first theme. A string bass replaces the tenor horn on the opening themes falling out of rhythm, and the theme continues on trombones, accompanied by the Verity and motto rhythm. After a few measures, the tenor horn reappears, playing not only its own distorted tomb but the exposition’s first theme as well. shuttering thrusts of string Tremeloes chill the atmosphere, trombones, and their own inverted version of the tenor horn theme. Then the tenor horn begins to wander off into the realm of the third theme, with its passionate yearning phrase on sequentially rising eighths, as the tempo presses forward. Origins and trombones pull back mightily on a dynamic phrase from the tenor horn theme that moves to a stirring climax, out of which high winds and violins wax rhapsodic, over the Der tag ist schön motive from the third theme, the harmony cadences to be major only to plunge back into the minor. The music seems to truly long for a sureness tag, a bright day at this critical moment, a desire that will not be fulfilled until the finale, violins abruptly if not rudely shunt this passionate music aside with a brace of treatment of the tenor horn theme over the variety and rhythm in low strings. Now the tenor horn returns with the second part of its theme, incorporating the devil’s dance motif, as during the introduction. The chorale subject combines with the tenor horn theme, as the tonality drifts toward G major. Once again, the voluptuous third theme intercedes passionately in violins. The tonality seems headed for A major but will devolve to E major, as hints of the martial second theme enter in the trumpet on the inverted variant of its opening data rhythmic figure, which is extended by woodwinds into the sequentially ascending triplets that close the first subject. The pace begins to accelerate only to hold back yet again as if heading toward the same climax that was so abruptly halted by the reprise of the introduction only moments before. This time closure is reached on strongly accented descending sixteenths and the violins that fall from a great height, as trumpets mightily assert the rising dotted rhythmic figure, like a clarion call, hailing the advent of the recapitulation. Let’s listen from the passage just described, where the third theme enters forcefully in violins.

Brass and cellos begin the recapitulation with an augmented version of the first theme and E major set against the galloping variant of the Verity and motto rhythm. As this theme is further developed, a motif in dotted rhythm from the introduction predominates in the base. Since the second theme starts with essentially the same rhythmic figure, repetition and development of this common element creates confusion between the two themes. A powerful elongated variation of the first theme, then follows in a way to your tempo, with overlapping canonic imitation with the bass strings. The combination of the dark a minor tonality, and the shivering string Tremeloes lends a sinister quality to the swaggering first theme. Soon this theme returns in its original form, with fragments of the second theme in winds. Brass enters on a weak beat, with a mighty statement of the first theme, while violins play the second part of that theme, with its galloping rhythm and quarter note triplets, resembling a trumpet tattoo.
Mahler backs into the return of the second theme proper by repeating its initiating dotted rhythmic figure like a vamp, first on the tuba, and then horns. It is accompanied by trilled woodwind chords, and an extension of the galloping rhythm of the first theme, until the second theme itself returns in B major. Our next excerpt will begin with the grandiose statement of the first theme.

As with the first theme, is joie de vivre second is treated contrapuntal, Mahler retains the order of thematic presentation in the exposition, bringing back the first theme after the reprise of the second to function as a transition to the return of the third theme. At first, the galloping rhythm that urged it forward and the exposition is replaced with high string Tremeloes. Then the first theme comes back on the timpani and bass strings, gradually diminishing until the violins swell into the third theme. In a fascinating example of Mahler’s telescoping technique. The third theme enters tenderly and violins in mid-course, and in the first themes key of B major, only to reestablish its total independence in G major, only three measures later. Here is that remarkable transition to the third theme in midstream.

The third theme continues, as if a natural outgrowth of the first theme, reaching a brief climax on a weak beat, with a strong upward thrust on the widest intervallic leap given to this phrase and the entire movement. After a full cadence, the theme recedes from a great height on the Der tag ist schön figure, Mahler has the third theme re-enter in mid-phrase and then brings it to a climax on the beginning of the theme, fragments of the second and third themes are knit into the polyphonic musical fabric, while the third theme continues to build in winds and strings, contrapuntal treatment of the third theme continues, until it reaches basically the same climax with which the section began, but with fuller orchestration and greater polyphonic complexity. Instead of releasing pent up tension, the climax increases it as the thematic material becomes more agitated and impassioned. After the music gradually rises to a great height. The introduction is jaunty marching tune in E major returns in a more lively tempo, re establishing the march beat that leads into the coda.

Shostakovich must have been influenced by the music that follows, which begins the coda using galloping rhythms against a steady march beat setting three two-meter the first theme enters in the brass, sounding sinister in an unaccustomed E minor and threatening in its augmented shape of propulsive rhythms. A rapid turn figure added to the theme adds a touch of the demonic. With the addition of the devil’s dance motif, the marching dance rhythms create music suitable for a witch’s Sabbath worthy of Berlioz, isolating the falling dotted rhythmic tag of the first theme, which also opens the second theme. This dance macabre continues wildly, by the time the galloping rhythm disappears, the first theme has become menacingly grotesque, forcing its way forward with strong accents on its newly acquired turn figure. In a broad weighty temple, the dark side of the first theme surfaces like a terrifying monster. In a fascinating example of dramatic transformation, the theme’s opening phrase disfigured by distorted intervals played against the Verity and motto becomes ugly and grotesque. One might imagine some fiendish demon of tremendous proportions inching toward its prey, as in a children’s ghost story. We’ll listen now from the beginning of the coda.

Now the first theme returns in its original a minor and Allegro temple to dispel the nightmarish vision urged on by its galloping rhythmic accompaniment. Fragments of the theme are bandied about with quarter note triplets from the second theme as if expressing relief that the nightmare is over. The music suddenly slows down and over a sequence of brass chords, trumpets assert the falling dotted rhythm of the second theme, answered by the horns, with an elongated version of the inversion of the theme would appear that the brass and tend to lead us back to yet another restatement of the first theme. Although they do bring back the galloping rhythm, the key changes to a bright E major, and instead of the first theme, making a final appearance, it is the second theme that enters with its dotted rhythm that falls by a fifth. With a robust assertion of this rhythmic figure about the full orchestra the movement ends with a dynamic thrust, like the sixth first movement, the seventh ends not with the first theme, but with the second our last excerpt will begin just before the return of the first theme.

By Lew Smoley

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