Listening Guide – Movement 2: In gemächlicher Bewegung


Mahler scherzo movement is as eerie and grotesque, as the first movement is lighthearted and parodistic. It features a scordatura solo violin, a violin that’s tuned to full step higher than the rest of the strings. This is to effect a harsh strident sound. Mahler directs that will be played like a fiddle, it’s rough and screechy quality, fitting the character of Freud Hein, a legendary figure in German mythology associated with death, striking up the band, he’s like a combination of Mephisto and the Fiddler on the Roof. Here he leads the orchestra in a dance movement in which a contorted landler theme goes round and round winding its way through a variety of fascinating subsidiary material, in which all ensembles take part.

The movement has been aptly called a dance McCobb by Neville Carter’s and a dance of death by Dika Newlin. Its mythical Fiddler, leading the participants ever so gently, get cunningly to the nether world. Much like the dark Fiddler beckons the two lost children to follow him into oblivion in delius opera abilities Romeo and Juliet. As Lagrange points out, this is Mahler’s only real dance movement since the skirts of the First Symphony added anticipates the lenders of the fifth and the ninth symphonies. Mahler could not have been more explicit about his intention to create music that will appear grotesque and frightening. To this end, he gives the brass a leading role. Having them imitate ghostly sounds that go bump in the night, through inventive use of piercing accents and ghoulish stopped tones. Sharp contrasts and striking outbursts conjure up spectral visions, repeated 16th note figures, and shifting trills add rhythmic and decorative touches to the shadowy apparitions evoked by the brass. Yet as Derek Cooke noted, the overall effect is not gruesome, but disquieting. What Mahler revokes here is more of the nature of a Wunderhornesque fairy tale of nightmarish visions that might do no more than frightened the tender-hearted sensibilities of a child, then and horrific vision of terrifying demons seeking their prey. In fact, the trios, dominated by woodwinds and board on bases exhibit good-natured Austrian joviality.

The second trio anticipates the heavenly joys of the finale, as is so often typical of Mahler skirts, those grotesque passages sound more Mephistophelean, than satanic, they might send a chill up the spine but do not horrify. While in expanded scherzo form with two trios. The movement structure also contains elements of a rando or round dance that contrasts with the principal levelers subject in a montage of dramatic and motifik interplay. For all its contrapuntal spinning of melodic and rhythmic material. The orchestration is relatively lean, is chewing more horrific effects that might have been produced by trombones, tubers, and percussion. The structure is modeled on the skirts of the second Symphony, and like its predecessor is often kept in motion by an underlying rhythm. By the use of this perpetual-motion undercurrent, the skirt so refers back to the opening movement that contains a similar underlying rhythm. Notwithstanding Mahler express intentions to the contrary, there is also an implicit sense of parody here, as there was in the first movement, frequent use of Baroque and Rococo mannerisms and ornamentation. Recall the classical style character toured in the opening Allegro. Recall that the main theme of the first movement is in the style of a waltz, despite being played in strict 4/4 time, while the theme of the first trio in the scherzo movement, although in triple meter, sounds much like a march.
These provocative inconsistencies function as parodic effects that tweaked the audiences of Mother’s Day and caused quite a stir during the symphonies premier. The seven-measure introduction that begins the scherzo contains three motivic elements that will play a major role throughout. First, an eerie horn figure that opens the movement, beginning with three notes rising stepwise, as did the first movements first and fourth themes and a falling and rising minor second, taken from a variant of the sleigh bells motive in the first movement. The second element, consists of repeated staccato 16th in oboes and bassoons, ending with a falling Second, the first note of which is trilled. This also relates to the sleigh Bell mode And third, a Calliope like worldling 16th note figuration, played by flutes against an inverted version in clarinets, a reference to a similar phrase in the Wundahorn song, Lob des hohen Verstandes, from which Mahler occasionally uses fragmentary thematic material to add a humorous touch, and we’ll return in the middle movement of the fifth simply, here’s the beginning of the movement to show the sequential arrangement of these three elements.

The structure and tenor of this introduction can be likened to the opening bars of another Wunderhorn song, Rheinlegendchen. It is an early example of Mahler’s penchant for the beginning of skirts or movement with a brief sequential statement of the movements principle modes that provide the listener with a kind of dramatic persona of principle, thematic or motivic material that will play a significant role during the movement. After motive three turns around a few times against repeated minor seconds from motive one, the first theme enters in the retune solo violin, with another three-note rising upbeat, relating it to the first theme of the opening movement. Unlike in that theme, these introductory notes rise diatonically and end on a wrong note, e natural-sounding D giving the theme a devilish character. It is a landler but a very curious one that turns upon itself and then unwinds on a 16th note phrase that relates to motive three, and therefore to lower their standards.

The solo violins theme is cut off in midstream by the second themes unanticipated appearance, the tonality suddenly changes to C major on a sustained open wind chord that creates a misty atmosphere, muted strings play 16th note figuration that contains a variant of motive three, and an inverted fragment of the first theme, punctuated by sharp pinpricks in the harp that make the hairs on the back of one’s neck stand on in, a sudden thrust on an offbeat unexpectedly juts out from the subdued flickering string figuration jolting the tonality out of kilter and causing the violins to react angrily with a rapid descending flurry of flatted notes. Woodwinds respond with a fragment of the first theme, that sounds even more like a variant of motive three when played in isolation from the principal theme.

The first theme is reintroduced in a strange manner. First divided violins played, followed by woodwinds joined by the solo violin only for the themes opening phrase. As the tonality shifts to the minor motors one and two from the introduction return to round out the skirt so section corns in their high register, directed to blare out and clarinets in their contracting the low register ease into the first trio in a more relaxed tempo, on a variation of motive one olustee of the somewhat arrogant version of the terror motive from the Second Symphony, without its terrifying aspect.

When the key modulates to F major, the spookiness of the scherzo section gives way to a lighter, more relaxed atmosphere. Clarinets pompously assert themselves to a little dance step, marked lustig: merrily, and played with builds up. This figure becomes the principal theme of the first trio. This trio theme relates to the main theme of the first movement because of its ländleresque character. It emphasizes a falling major second with a trill on the first note that gives it a gay or more coquettish character.

The trio theme is akin to the pompous oboe tune from the funeral march of the first symphonies third movement and the clarinet theme from the scherzo of the third, violins play a dotted rhythmic figure that is a direct quote from the Rheinlegendchen song.

After the woodwinds take a few turns developing the trio theme. A melting melody in the violins generates a warm glow, it contrasts with the perky variant of the trio theme played by a solo horn.

In soft hues and gentle tones, the music becomes soothingly pastoral it soon fades out gradually working its way down to the low strings on a rhythmic figure, two-eighths followed by two sixteenths that are an inverted version of the clarinet call that introduced the trio.
The introduction of the movement now returns in its original form, to mark the reprise of the skeletal section. This time, the mistunes solo violin plays more passionately as if pleading with its listeners to follow its lead. It is set against a meandering solo horn that combines a variety of rhythmic and motivic elements from the scherzo subject into a counter theme. The solo violin theme seems to take on a darker coloration, has a muted trumpet plays a variation of the terror motive that opens the trio.

The orchestral texture thins out as woodwinds and then violins take turns with the highly flexible first theme, the former giving it a sprightly playful character, the ladder sounding more lyrical. Soon the second theme returns spiced up with the trilled falling seconds from the first trio, played by oboe and clarinet. motive one casts a shadow over the music, though hidden in the lowest register of the horns, and assumes it anticipates the return of the scherzo his introduction. The scherzo close as much as it did before, but this time muted trumpets disturb the musical flow with a piercing chord played on an upbeat that causes the violence to scamper away on a descending sequence of accented 16th, horns and woodwinds bring back the introductory motives to usher in the return of the first theme.

Once again set against a horn counter theme. Motive two flickers in the background as theme and counter theme are further developed. A short rising whoops flare-up on the solo violin and two flutes anticipating the movements closing section, motives one and two combined with the figuration of the second theme, apparently intending to close the skirt so section with a variant of the rapid descent of the flat and 16th with which had ended previously. This time, there is no thrust against which to react, so the descending sixteenths are now played tamely on a diatonic scale by the solo violin its downward line, being continued by three pizzicato sixteenths in the bass strings. A moment of silence leads to the second trio. The lighter version of the terror motive that opened the first trio in clarinets and horns, is now inverted, and declaimed by the first trumpet to introduce a new variation of the first tree or theme, began by clarinets and continued by first violins. As before the pace relaxes, and the music seems to smile pleasantly with a hint of forgiveness. Again, a trilled falling second is prominent. The first horn outlines the lenders theme to decorative figuration in violins in a few measures first violins float on solve cloud of minor seconds against a variation of the same figuration transferred to second violence.

The arrogant little dance step phrase played first in the earlier trio section by clarinets returns, in oboe and clarinets against soft flowing strings, which continued developing rhythmic figures from the trio theme. For a brief moment, the closing section foreshadows the close of the entire Symphony in a descending 16th note phrase in strings, giving way to the same rhythmic figure that closes the first trio played this time only by contrabassoon and bass strings.

A brief development section follows functioning as a transition to the scherzo sections reprise the emergence of D major at the beginning of this section creates a soft warm hue against which clarinets adamantly declaimed yet another reworking of the second trio theme, we get a glimpse of the finales heavenly serenity in crisscrossed spring glissandos. Under striding clarinets, creating a marvelous juxtaposition of divergent lines and temperaments. Another arrogant pronouncement of the clarinet dance step figure leads into a tenderly lyrical string version of the trio theme. It soon fades as bass strings take up the rhythmic figure they played during the close of the trios, while a muted horn follows suit with motive one to reintroduce the scherzo section in its original key motive three in woodwinds accompanies the scherzo theme in the solo violin, now played by the lead second violin in natural tuning, and more hesitantly if no less gracefully than before. A new counter theme and first oboe soon takes over accompanied by a variant of itself on the first clarinet, forming a delightful if brief trio. motive two is then strongly pronounced by the piccolo against motive one in the first horn and the main theme in the naturally tuned violin.

After another version of the woodwind trio, both the retune and the naturally tuned violins combined with a muted horn, playing a variant of motive one that ends with the upward whooping figure heard in a previous scherzo section on violins. A solo Viola plays the second part of the scherzo theme. At this point, Mahler never stops refashioning and reintegrating his musical material, continuously pairing up different thematic variants in different combinations. The fascinating instrumental groupings that appear occasionally and Mahler symphonies, make one regret that he did not compose for small ensembles in his maturity. Soon the glimmering, or the second theme returns in C major, with the sleigh Bell motive to added as an ornament to the string figuration. The re-tune solo violin takes over the forceful clocks from the harp that now provide counterpoint in accented eighths. Even the timpani has an important role to play here, prominently of quietly stating the little rhythmic figure first played by the horns during the first trio. A version of motive one functions as a bridge to the final code.

The three introductory motives taken out of the original order are presented in winds and then strings. They lead into the first theme of the scherzo, which will be the focus of the closing section. Violins and Piccolo form a little pirouette on the opening phrase of this theme to introduce the read tunes solo violin, playing the phrase in its original form. Low winds and strings recall the rhythmic figure with which the bass strings close the trio sections. After the first themes final appearance on the solo violin, motives one and two are whispered delicately in a small ensemble of winds and low strings. Night seems to close upon this spooky, yet sprightly little serenade. As the instruments fade away into the evening air. Frying hind has disappeared, and all that remains are the motivic fragments that give his tomb of ghostly quality. Cellos and basses extend the mode of one into the rising whoops played earlier by violins, increasing the interval with each measure. Then the oboes faintly begin the jingle motive that ends on an unexpectedly strong thrust of a falling fourth, instead of the expected falling second, to exaggerate its grotesque character. With this startling interjection, the movement abruptly comes to a halt.

As in many of Mahler scherzo’s movements, the principal elements break up and peter out at the close. This is the converse of the usual procedure, where a fragmentary material appears at the beginning of the movement. Many of the themes and motives prominent in this movement will provide material for the offbeat metrically shifting first scherzo that was to be included in the incomplete 10th symptom.

By Lew Smoley

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