Listening Guide – Movement 2: Scherzo


It is obvious from the outset that the scherzo movement caricature is the march of the first movement. But dramatically it goes far beyond that, Mephistopheles and mimicry of fausty and heroism, that it during the first movements development section becomes the scherzo focal point, if not, its raison d’etre. The first movement’s heroic march is made to sound awkward and disfigured by shifting the stress to an offbeat and reconverting its meter from quarter time to triple time. During the scherzo movements to trios, this perverted march beat is further distorted, treated as dance music that conjures up an image of Mephistopheles pure wedding around the stage, as he marks the hero’s proud bearing, clipped dotted rhythms, grotesque slides of a super octave and the brass and the motive of the devil’s dance, all of which represent the heroes inner demons return here as principal elements. He revisions, Goblinesque distortions and frightening jolts in the brass, combined with flickering grace noted figures and diabolical trills in woodwinds to evoke a satanic image of the underside of the heroes character, the coda of prophesized catastrophe. The contrast between the twisted brutalized march of the scared so sections and then the medic rococo dance music of trios are made even grimmer by the doleful tones of the chordal fate motive. Some have called the movement of the dance of death, following the suggestion in almost recollections, that despite the relatively happy summers of 1903 to 1904, when the symphony was written, Mahler was consumed by thoughts of death, yet the immediate effect of the music that emerges from his gloomy contemplations is not terrifying or horrific. Mephistopheles does not need to frighten Faust in order to defeat him, he only needs to show him that his power and bravery are mere absurd posturing. So in this movement, one can imagine the clever Devil’s agent flitting and strutting about the stage as he marks the hero for his own heroism. A scene that Redlich likens to a half moonesque puppet show. Gabriele angle referred to gargoyles leering in dark corners suffused with a murky atmosphere, even the reverie of lost innocence invoked during the chorale bridge passages of the first movement as a picaresque quality when conjured up in the first trio.
Psychologically, the conjunction of the first two movements demonstrates a keen sense of self-understanding and depth perception, on a conceptual level, the scherzo represents a nihilistic response to the positive and creative aspects of human life. The two trio sections contrast markedly with the spooky scherzo music, yet their musical substance is drawn from the latter, though devoid of spectral grotesque curries, and biting sarcasm. Instead, the trio’s relish in hydenesque delicacy and grace, Mephistopheles caricature of Faust also takes a different turn. What was rude and nasty mimicry in the scherzo section becomes obnoxious parody and the trios. Faust Nemesis apes his sense of pride, by turning it into inane, prancing and strutting to the strains of a dainty slow landler. Far from a simple country dance, this ländler is fashioned from musical cliches, that border on kitsch, contorted by numerous meter ships, and strong accents on upbeats and occasionally interrupted by brief flights of fancy, clearly intended as mockery.

Unlike the Fifth Symphony scherzo which also uses dance music as a vehicle for mimicry. No walls appear in the scherzo of the sixth. Several commentators consider the trio a recollection of the peace and innocence of childhood and country life, affected by simple folk tunes set in a comparatively relaxed and pleasant atmosphere, but as Mosco Carner correctly points out, these elements are treated in a rather brutal, accurate, effective manner. The cynicism of Mahler’s parody is no less apparent in the trios than in the scherzo, Alma claimed that in the trios, our husband was imitating their children’s vigorous horseplay, in the sandy lakefront of their summer home. She also thought that the movement ends with a frightening presentment of doom, as she put it, ominously, the childish voices become more and more tragic, and at the end die out in a whisper, but Dika Newlin rightly suggests that more alarming things than children at play seem to come to light in this scherzo, it one can detect a childlike quality in the trio of music, especially in its mimetic figuration. Floros likens the oboe theme of the trio to the theme played by both the oboe d’amore and the oboe in the scherzo section from Strauss’s Symphonia Domestica, which was published in March of 19 104, just before the summer during which Mahler completed his Sixth Symphony. Strauss initially entitled the section Elternglück, klindiche Spiele, childish play parental happiness. However, the sixth is too serious to work to trivialize its meaning by such a comparison, a scherzo is no laughing matter, even its inane mimicry has terrible implications. In fact, when Mahler’s daughter Marie died a few years after the symphony was completed, calm will recall her fears that both the sixth and Kindertotenlieder, three songs of which were written in about the same time as the symphony, were prophetic of this terrible tragedy. She apparently warned Mahler that by writing these works, he was tempting fate. Mahler equivocated about whether to place the scherzo in second or third position in the symphony, although the first published edition had the scherzo second model performed the Andante movement before the scherzo in the Premier given an essence on May 27 1906, and gave explicit instructions to his publisher to change the order of these middle movements in the score. In his last performance of the sixth, on for January 1908, Mahler may have again changed his mind and reverted to the original order. Only one critic from the Vienna journal noted the change, while as many as five others indicated that the revised order had been retained. So what actually happened? Donald Mitchell speculates that Mahler may have experimented with the original order during the final rehearsal for the premiere, which often serves as the basis for review by critics who do not actually attend the performance. To add to the confusion, Alma apparently advised Mengelberg to place the scherzo second, Donald Mitchell suggests that either version may be valid and may have had Mahler’s blessing. However, the value of breaking up too fast movements with a slow one is outweighed by the effectiveness of placing the scherzo movement immediately after the movement that it parodies the first. Yet some commentators suggest that the tragic episode of the scherzo’s coda section would be a fitting prelude to the finale and the shocking resumption of a minor at the beginning of the skirt soap would sublimate the heroic A major conclusion of the first movement. Maybe it should, for that is precisely the reason for this juxtaposition of tonalities, conceptually, the scherzo does deflate the heroic temperament of the first woman by parodying. Moreover, the placement of a tender-hearted Andante movement between scherzo and finale offers a respite from the conflict presented in these movements. The main temple the scherzo has also been the subject of much disagreement, many conductors emphasizing the importance of the title scherzo choose a rapid tempo, thereby creating a more marked contrast with the first movement. In doing so they completely ignore Mahler’s initial tempo marking Wuchtig, which calls for waiting lists that would be negated by a fast tempo. To reinforce the scherzo’s a parody of the first movement’s march, the main temple of the former should approximate that of the ladder. Just as a march rhythm began the first movement so it begins the scherzo what was a strong and steady beat in the former, however, is now grotesquely deformed in the latter. Common time for the margin, the first movement has changed to triple meter in the scherzo with heavy accents forced upon each upbeat, thus de-emphasizing the first beat, and thereby causing the march to limp along awkwardly. Strings mimic the unbalanced March rhythm by adding a rising minor second to each beat, thereby forming a principal rhythmic motif with a core motive X, here it is.

A grace noted falling third figure, we’ll call motive Y, that begins on the first beat of the bar with a strong accent on the first note is added to this march rhythmic motive.

Sharp staccatos flitting grace notes and clipped note values reinforce the music’s devilish character. Other figures do so as well for sample rising and falling scales that are toyed with in the trio sections and end with whipsaw figures and violins.

Also, an upbeat a for rising 32nd notes that relate to the upward thrusting 16th note figure the first movement, referred to as motive Y this figure will also return in the finale.

We will also hear the motive of the devil’s dance that had already appeared in the previous movement, now sounding even more terrifying.

The latter mode of no longer falls diatonically but chromatically adding to its diabolical character, tinkling sounds of xylophone embellish the spectral atmosphere, even the chorale passage from the first movement returns in the horns, harmonically distorted so as to sound sinister, with lurid tones and diminished harmonies and to sound grotesque when played with the upward thrusting 30 seconds from the first movement.

The major-minor fate motive also makes an appearance softly integrated into the harmonic motion that wavers between tonic and dominant, with an emphasis on the minor second in the upper register, repeating notes and rhythmic couplets contrast with ascending and descending scales. Indeed, the entire scherzo section might be considered Mahler’s dance, McCall, shades of the grotesque glories of Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique, are apparent in the orchestration. Yet the musical material is not overpowering, but delicate, almost refined, like an impish parody of L’ style gallon, let’s listen to the entire first part of the scherzo.

As we just heard the first part of the scherzo section ends with a screaming B flat seventh chord. This horrific chord recalls the cry of distress that opened the finales of the first and second symphonies.
A subsidiary section of the scherzo follows continuing to develop the material of the principal section, but in a manner that anticipates the trio especially in its sequence of meter shifts. After an extended brass corral passage, that sounds even more gloomy and morose. The scherzo section ends on another screeching outburst on A, like the whale of a perturbed spirit that emerges from a long chain of clipped dotted rhythms that descends chromatically. The march beat then resumes but gradually slows down and fades out until it disappears after being played meekly by a single oboe.

Now the first trio begins, shifting meters between 4/8 and 3/8, with an occasional 3/4 on an elongated phrase. This slow delicate landler in F major is marked Altväterisch. roughly long song old fashioned notably slower, it begins with the woodwinds on a new theme that contains the repeating notes of the march rhythm, that now becomes staccato eighth so clipped 16th to which is added a variant of motive Y, but now 16th note figuration combines with dactylic phrases, and these repeating notes to produce a lender have uncharacteristic charm and grace. But the shifting meters throw the dance music off balance, making it sound awkward and ungainly. The upbeat of the repeating notes is occasionally accented, as during the scherzo section. This caricature of elegant dance music is frequently interrupted by brisk figures of inane sixteenths played more rapidly is out of step. They seem to conjure up a picture of Faust provocateur, no longer able to restrain himself from laughing out loud as he continues his parody of vous terrorism. It should not go unnoticed that this bit of figuration consists of rapidly repeating falling fourths, he had another parody on the first movements March here played in double time. Then as nice as you please, the trio theme continues undaunted by this mocking intrusion.

Soon elements from the scherzo section begin to appear in the strings, taking part in Mephistopheles taunting mockery, it becomes obvious that the trio’s dance music is derived from the scherzo section, thus a parody on a parody.

The entire movement has its conceptual parallel, in the Mephisto movement of Liszt Faust Symphony, here as their Faust music from the first movement is lampooned so that he is reduced to a cartoon character, parading about like a pretentious fool, after yet another intrusion of flighty rapid figuration, this time falling into the base. The march tread of the introduction returns, horns decorate the march beat with flathead grace notes. Some of the horns have repeating notes played against others in descending chromatics. Mahler directs them to play this passage trudgingly, with each of its two-bar repetitions diminishing from forte or fortissimo, creating the effect of yawning as if Mephistopheles seems to tire of his own lampooning.

This passage serves as a transition to the subsidiary section of the First trio, with its tempo continually slowing down. A new landler theme and F minor now appears played softly in woodwinds at a slower pace against tapping strings on the clip dotted rhythmic variant of the troupe march tread. This new theme begins on an upbeat of for 30 seconds sourced in the scherzo section but also of course a variant of motive Y from the first movement that will return during the introduction of the finale. Here it is played lumber simply losing all of the forceful thrust that had had in the first movement.
Flickering dotted rhythms are juxtaposed with chromatic figures combining the sinister quality of the ladder with the skeletal visage of the former.

Without warning the scherzo section returns rudely shunting aside the new landler theme, this abrupt shift in both mood and tempo is quite a shock. The scherzo subjects seem to have regenerated itself, sounding even more morbid and ferocious when played by the full orchestra following the return of the march beat pounded out by timpani during the scherzo subsidiary section. The Bolgar chorale segment growls mendaciously on contrabassoon trombones and bass tuba a core owl fragment integrates with the scherzo theme and elements from the first trio confounding march and landler.
Introduced by the 32nd note upbeat and enormous whale bursts out from the entire orchestra on an A major chord and the trumpet states a phrase with a skirt so theme, giving it a heroic bearing made more emphatic by the clip dotted rhythms of the march played forcefully on horns with bells held high. This is the only moment and the scherzo when Faust seems to assert himself and squarely faces Mephistopheles, prattling ridicule.

Scherzo section winds down on falling figures from the trumpets call, while the march bead works its way gradually during a death transition into the second trio in D major.
Essentially the same material from the first trio is presented in the second, but the orchestration is fuller. Once again, the first landler of the theme is occasionally interrupted by rapid silly figuration. The contrast between the grace If the unbalanced, landler theme, and these flighty interruptions unsettle the dance music until it bursts out furiously, but it quickly calms down and regains its composure, the twists and turns of the landler during the second trio become increasingly confused. Suddenly, timpani reasserts the march tread, calling a halt to such folder all bass strings follow with their flickering grace note and variant of the march rhythm, introducing a reorchestration version of the lugubrious bridge passage that led to the subsidiary section of the first trio. This time oboes intrude with the scherzo theme, seeming not only quiet at home in this strange atmosphere, but gently forcing the trio music out of the picture.

As the easy-paced version of a scherzo theme grows stronger, the scherzo itself abruptly returns in both its original tempo and key, a minor. It’s maniacal, furor, and grotesque mockery, showing no signs of abating.

Again, a sinister brass corral in D minor leads to a sudden orchestral explosion on a terrifying yet harmonically ambivalent seventh chord, which anticipates the German sixth chord that will begin the finale, as this chord diminishes for oboes arrogantly assert of all things, the trio’s landler theme, as if it were a sentence of doom. horns whale out the grace note a descending scale from the previous bridge passage here in chromatics against another descending chromatic scale, this one in 30 seconds, played staccato by strings and flutter tongue flutes. This appalling outburst is prophetic of the tragedy to come.

Timpani and bass drum quietly resumed the march tread as the coda begins with music from the trio. Now sounding even more spooky, in a chamber like setting. A dismal chorale on the chordal motive of fate sounds woefully in trumpets against the trio themes in clarinet, oboe and solo violin. In typically Mahlerian in fashion, the trio music disintegrates into fragments scattered around the orchestra. It’s cliche figure spread it out by various instruments gradually falling into the base. When the contrabassoon plays the last scrap of the trail theme motive why the temple slows down to a crawl, and only the rising and falling third of that motive can be heard quietly and sluggishly on timpani and basis ending the movement in the shadow of mystery.

With these final notes, Mephistopheles puts an end to this diabolical parody of fause heroic character. In the movement that follows We will witness the hero’s introspective reaction.

By Lew Smoley

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