Mahler opens the first movement by creating an atmosphere unique in his time for the beginning of a symphony and almost inaudible sustained a natural in eight octaves, for divided strings in harmonics evokes the shimmering haze and serene calm of A Midsummer sunrise.
This long sustained multi octave chord provides the harmonic underpinning for most of the introduction and serves as a backdrop from which various musical elements briefly appear, hovering between D minor and D major, the latter being the symphonies principal key.
This harmonic uncertainty generates a sense of mystery, time seems to stand still in the glow of this hushed atmosphere. woodwinds play the first distinguishable sounds that emerge from the layered Sonic glow, a phrase like an embryonic configuration of a melody not yet formed, composed of a sequence of descending fourths, played dragging and very soft, as if not to disturb the equilibrium established by the opening chord.
This simple series of descending fourths provides a principal motto that integrates the entire work, serving as the basis for much of its thematic, harmonic, and even rhythmic material. Mahler’s most obvious model for this opening section is the corresponding passage in Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony. It begins in much the same manner but on a sustained F natural in four horns, over which strings play a progression of descending thirds rather than fourths. While the structure of these two opening segments are similar, their respective moods are completely different. Mahler’s evoking serene calm, Beethoven’s a darker, more mysterious atmosphere.
Mahler makes his intentions perfectly clear by directing that the opening played the eye not too loud, like the sounds of nature. Just when the salt soothing tones of the descending fourth smarthome begin to lull us into a semi-conscious dream state. A hushed, rapid volley of military signals and tattoos on clarinets and bass clarinet is heard as if from a fall functioning as a Rivoli to awaken the new day.
Mahler’s use of clarinets instead of brass instruments more traditional use to military music is a fine example of his creative use of instrumental tamaraws. exchanging the brassy tone of the trumpet for the mellower tambor of the clarinet, in order better to reflect the warmth generated by the multi layer Sonic background. Mahler’s attempt to enhance the sense of distance he wished to evoke by softly stating these early morning military signals, demonstrates his highly developed understanding of acoustical principles, prefigured in his use of an offstage band and as clogging in the lead. Just as significant is his use of military signals and tattoos, that sound like faint stirrings, with which the new day begins. They also symbolize the hero of the symphony, whose life struggles serve as the underlying premise.
One can imagine the young Mahler of awakening in the early morning, and straining to hear the distant trumpet volleys from the nearby military barracks, located just beyond the confines of his native youth club. Ever a brief Return of the descending force in woodwinds, the key of D major is firmly established on trumpet fanfares sounding from afar and gradually accelerating until they are abruptly broken off by Rapid Fire a sequence of overlapping descending fourths, again in woodwinds, and now these descending fourth seem to imitate the sounds of a cuckoo. Soon a solo clarinet imitates the cuckoo call more distinctly and forcefully, those still from afar. This to note bird sound, also in fourths, parallels the motos sequence of falling fourths, thus representing not only an aspect of nature but also the first transformation of the symphonies germ so.
Mahler may not have been true to nature and using a fourth interval for the cuckoo Cole. Beethoven was probably more accurate in depicting cuckoo calls with a falling third in the slow movement of his Pastoral Symphony. But Mahler’s primary interest is the musical representation of nature, more than the description of the bird itself. For in the motivic scheme of things, the fourth interval is paramount.
A beguiling expressive horn phrase marked very much like singing laughs its way gently over the morning mist, as trumpet volleys are again heard in the distance. In the course of this extensive introduction, Mahler not only sets the stage for what follows but introduces motives that will generate the thematic material as well as its accompaniment. After the rapid trumpet tattoos and cuckoo calls again, briefly break through the dawn like stillness, the opening temple returns. This time, we hear a dirge like a rhythm that keeps repeating in low strings, accompanying the descending fourths now played by horns and clarinets. A similar rhythmic pattern will be used in the first movement of the Second Symphony, where it is inverted, descending rather than ascending, more in keeping with a few nariyal characters of that movement extraordinarily lengthy introduction, some 60 measures set up a basic duality between the hushed stillness of the underlying atmosphere and the rapid assertive trumpet, follies and bird sounds the pierce through the otherwise undisturbed serenity. It is one of the few instances of purely descriptive tone painting in Mahler symphonies.
In the transition passage, the exposition that follows is both brief and ingenious. In only four measures, Mahler relaxes the tempo and regularizes the rhythm of repeated cuckoo calls. In preparing for the entrance of the main theme. They’re falling fourths providing the interval for the first two notes of the theme itself. Set at an easygoing pace. The main theme, first stated softly in the cellos is a direct quote from the song gang, Hoyt Morgans who will sell.
The second song for Mahler’s leader on his for the ending is Ellen. Mahler does not merely reorg illustrate the song theme but builds a well-organized movement of considerable proportions and content around initially, the song theme is played very softly, most unusual for the first appearance of a principal theme and a romantic Symphony, especially after such a lengthy introduction. Here is the original song theme from the second Gesellen Song.
This introduction could be likened to an awakening of nature. The exposition might be characterized as the bright morning, it begins quietly but gradually becomes more and more energetic until it literally spills over with youthful exuberance in the final measures, the exposition ends with a reminder of the introductions cuckoo calls. It not only recalls the opening, but signals the beginning of the development section mauler inserts at the end of the exposition, one of the rarest of all markings in his works, a repeat sign, the only other symphonic movements in which a repeat sign appears, or the lender movement of this Symphony, and the first movement of the Sixth Symphony.
Since Mahler rarely repeats his themes verbatim, his decision to provide for an exact repetition of the exposition might seem uncharacteristic. In fact, this repeat marking did not appear in early versions of the manuscript score, but only after the premiere when Mahler realized that the overall construction of the movement would be too heavily weighted on the development and the recapitulation if the exposition were not repeated. One other curiosity about the exposition is essentially monothematic, its only theme being the gazelle in the song tune.
The development section opens over an attenuated version of the high a natural string octaves with which the movement began sounding even more opaque than before. A harp punctuates the thinly veiled sonority with three plus tones that sound like the ticking of a distant clock, though actually referring to the first three notes of the song themes second part. The high level of intensity generated at the close of the exposition is mollified by slowing down the tempo, and changing the metric pulse from our brave to common time for beats in a measure. A flute plays a five note figure that uses a fragment of the string figuration that both extended and later accompany the main theme of the exposition. A Piccolo blurts out a few isolated cuckoo calls over a new figure, a descending fifth, derived from the second part of the main theme.
This descending figure is first stated by the cellos and then expanded by adding an upbeat, sliding gently on the falling sixth, to enhance the summery atmosphere. Then this three-note phrase is refashioned by having its upbeat fall instead of rising and changing the interval of the two note figure that follows from a sixth to a fifth. The three no phrase will become more significant as the development section proceeds and will be used later as a means of passage the return of the second part of the theme. The sultry haze of the introduction continues, while a clarinet squeaks out cuckoo calls. The tonality shifts to the minor and soft timpani strokes gently add an underlying pulse that had been avoided during the suspension of the long multi octave chord. with which the development section begins clarinet cuckoo calls and the lubri is March tread her during the introduction return over a sequence of the motto of the falling fourth in oboe and clarinet. The Heavenly horn duet from the introduction also makes an appearance in combination with a three-note cello figure, as well as bird calls played on weak beats against the smooth flow of the march tread. The warm scene brightens as the tonality gently returns to the tonic D major horn softly introduces a new theme, sounding much like a hunting call the overlapping cuckoo calls sound and clarinet and flute. As the horn theme proceeds, the music becomes increasingly agitated now. As the three-node cello figure returns softly in high register the fluids bit of the main theme, sounding like Birdsong, begins to flutter more and more rapidly preparing for the return to the main theme, the second part would soon appear softly in the violins.
Notice that it is the second part and not the first part of the expositions principle theme that reappears first, during the development, a highly unorthodox procedure for a sonata for movement light-hearted second part of the main theme as soon restated in the horns softly, but in a noble manner. How brightly mala reintroduces the main themes first part, not directly, but first in fragments, and then by a soft and easy statement of its second part, now adding the three-node cello figure to it in second violins and the holders and at the same time, utilizing yet another variant of it in woodwinds as accompaniment, all without interfering with the music’s restful quality.
It is as if Mahler were proceeding toward the return of the main theme in retrograde by passing first through its second part, and then its figurative extension.
And finally, the bouncing dance step rhythms with Wichard close the exposition, sounding in echoing violins almost like yodels. Instead of leading directly into the return of the principal theme, the music suddenly seems to tire out.
But the first part of the main theme does return almost unnoticeably first in the woodwinds with cellos, and then into the fragment of the accompanying string figuration with which the development began. Even the three-note cello figure has a part to play first, in the first horn, but then as part of the main subject. As the tempo gradually increases, the texture becomes denser, and fragments of the main theme are tossed about and repositioned undergoing significant harmonic transformation. All without any rise in dynamic level, I might add orchestral forces gradually expand as the cello phrase develops into a close cousin of the second part of the main theme. Combining with a new treatment of other elements including a lend glue, like skipping phrases, the music recaptures its easy-going character. Some criticism has been leveled at more for insufficient thematic development in this movement, long stretches without key modulation to occur. And the frequency of pure quotation from the exposition in fragmentary form seems to detract from a well-integrated development.
So the critics claim he had Mahler’s method of integrating thematic and rhythmic elements is both creative and masterful. Nothing is wasted or insignificant.
Moreover, Mahler’s penchant for a cyclical approach. emanating from the three no cello phrases and the march tread of the introduction, and exemplified by brief anticipation of one of the principal themes of the finale is extraordinarily creative. Another favorite malaria and musical device occur when the three no cello figure is stretched out in widening intervals, as the music seems to rear up on its hind legs to expel some of the energy so long held back during the development of brief reference to the horn theme from the development ushers in trumpet tattoos, played with mutes on to engender a feeling of distance.
The music gradually expands on a melodic phrase that anticipates the final heroic theme. In an extended build up over a long crescendo. The three no cello figure rises higher and higher, giving way to repeated figures to become increasingly faster over a series of minor seconds, that rise in half step sequence. As the underlying rhythm becomes more and more vigorous.
Mahler directs that the tempo be increasingly held back, creating a kind of push-pull effect that heightens the dramatic effect of the orchestral buildup, and that ends with an enormous explosion, like a dam bursting its confines a powerful D major fanfare made especially vibrant by woodwind and triangle trills, over a drum roll and sustained cymbal crash, introduce the hero motif. A sustained trill brings in what first sounds like a new theme, played with enormous power by all seven horns, it consists of repeating fourths, rising and falling. This theme has the character of a rousing Austrian military march. It ends with volleys of whooping triplets, a premonition of the final measures of the symphony. But this stentorian marching tunes nothing more than a reprise of the horn corral from the development section, strengthened and vitalized with heroic bearing.
Let’s listen to that, Mahler’s pension for telescoping has dramatic material, and transitions between sections is shown what follows from the main theme returns, it forgoes the seven-note tune of the Gesellen song from which it was taken, and replaces it with a variation of the decorative string figuration that served earlier as an expansion of the theme. It is now played over the three-note cello motor, developed further in lower strings. As the song theme returns for its final and most extensive treatment in the development, the music soon becomes both more agitated and forceful culminating in a burst of youthful exuberance strength of purpose.
Here Mahler shows what he can do with the elements of his principal theme, introducing the themes opening notes and canonic, imitation and trumpets. He then gives the first three notes to the timpani. How playfully Mahler weaves the main theme together, bit by bit in various sections of the orchestra, shifting from winds to strings. The Matic fragments appear virtually at will in a perfectly smooth, yet actually unconnected string of entrances that continues to develop even beyond the beginning of the recapitulation. The second part of the main theme is so tied in with the first part, that both are virtually inseparable. How joyful the music has become, spilling over with youthful enthusiasm.
At the height of the recapitulation. The main theme rings out brilliantly and trombones shifting to woodwinds and strings. Then in horns and woodwinds. When horns and trumpets repeat the first seven note phrase of the theme, the little five note cell from the accompanying spring figuration, played by a flute at the beginning of the development, reappears here momentarily in high violins.
Mahler closes the section just as he had ended the exposition with a frivolous volley of fragments from the string figuration that runs headlong into a rapid fire smattering of cuckoo calls. Now played with complete abandon in woodwinds and ending of all things on the timpani. It is this expose timpani Part Two which model was probably referring to when he humorously suggested that no one will notice the theme that at the end is given to the timpani. After a brief silence, they extend their bit of figuration even further in defiance of the timpani. Yet again, the timpani responds, with more rapid strokes of falling fourths.
Another pause for reflection and the timpani joins with the entire orchestra to close the movement and while the full orchestra bursting forth on the string figuration, while the timpani bounds merrily long, with its cuckoo imitation, on falling fourths.
All this unrestrained frivolity quickly reaches a conclusion on a fragment of the theme, ending with an abrupt cadential snap, nearly the converse of the final snap, that ends the symphony itself.
Mahler said of this clamorous ending that he saw Beethoven before him breaking out and peals of laughter, it is no wonder. It is a reminder of how flippantly Beethoven finally rejected the reminiscences of the proceeding movements at the beginning of his ninth symphonies finale
By Lew Smoley