Listening Guide – Movement 2: Stürmisch bewegt, mit größter Vehemenz


The second movement is a violent reaction to the tragic nature of human destiny, expressed in the first movement. Such a reaction was already anticipated in the trio of that movement. Thus, the first two movements are connected by the tragedy of human mortality, having briefly expressed his anger at the injustice of humankind’s relentless suffering in the first movement, Mahler gives full vent to his rage, and the second, thematic and motivic references to the first movement make the connection between these two movements explicit in neither the First nor the Third Symphony, where Mahler also joined movements into parts or the conjunctions between movements as overt as here, one might even consider the second movement to be a continuation of the first approaching its mournful subject from a different perspective.
An outburst of blistering rage bursts forth at the opening of the movement fuming with anger, the opening section strikes out against the tragedy of the first movement, only to give way to the mournful strains of its funeral march theme. Despite such a violent reaction that turns upon itself, by recalling that which precipitated, the music still manages to find enough strength and courage to seek relief from the suffering that reacts to as it builds sequentially toward fulfillment. A prophetic glimpse of ultimate victory over death is short-lived. As diminished seventh chords dash all hope for deliverance from the tortures of fear and trembling, and the raging fury of the opening section returns on abated, but just before the final coda, a grandiose vision of the heavenly heights, bathed in Bruchnerian splendor provides a fleeting glimpse of long sought after redemption, this so-called grand chorale, will return in the finale, as an apotheosis that reveals what has by then already been achieved, and understanding that life may be redeemed through love. The unexpected appearance of the grand chorale in the second movement, while a portent of its recurrence in the finale, does not offer lasting consolation. For this to happen, the sufferer must confront life’s negative side, understand its significance and overcome his antagonism to it that threatens to devolve into nihilism. At this juncture, he is far from achieving self-induced redemption, the contrast between frenetic rage and soulful lamentation that gives way to a brief but brilliant ray of hope, evokes the perils of human life most profoundly. Alma Mahler apparently criticized Gustav for being too bruchnerian in presenting the grand corral as an all too obvious Deus Ex Machina, even if it fails to succeed and completely dispelling the raging anger of the opening section. Although Mahler may have accepted his wife’s suggestions in other respects, he refused to eliminate the grand chorale. It’s important that’s a harbinger of ultimate triumph over death is too essential to the dramatic import of the symphony to risk toning it down or doing away with it altogether. The second movement begins with a five node arching figure thrust out rapidly by bass strings and cut off by a thrusting stroke. The upward arching figure keeps repeating as if trying to inflict a wound.

This arching figure appeared in the principal theme of the first Gesellen song and will return in the burlesque movement of the Ninth Symphony. Another important motive consists of three notes, the first of which leaps up by an octave, or super octave, usually a ninth, and then resolves by a falling second, usually a minor second, that’s relating it to the motive of the whoa.

This cellular figure also opens the first tree of the first movement, which is sourced in an extension of the funeral march theme itself, where it sounded more temporary, by reason of its shorter rising interval, a sixth and slightly falling whole step resolution. Here, this figure sounds like a cry of distress, because of its widened opera lead. It also relates to the cry of distress sound and in the finales of both the first and second symptom. This three-note motive will recur many times in later works, such as Das Lied von der Erde and the Ninth Symphony, and will appear in the final measures of the 10th. The fury of the opening section, the A section is energized by increasingly extended torrents of eighth note figuration in the strings and by intermittence quarters have chromatically descending triplets and machine gun-like repeated eighths and wins. Similar triplets appeared as flashes of lightning during the storm music of the first symphonies finale. Both of these movements have the same opening tempo marking, Stürmisch bewegt, stormally agitated and follow funeral march movements. paroxysms of violent rage immediately engulfed the music as the movement begins. The arch-like figure played in the bass will call motive a is punctuated by lashing strokes of the diminished seventh. That sound like knife thrusts against a rapid-fire volley of eighth notes spotted out by trumpets leaping three-note motive B with a falling minor second of the whoa is called by Becker, ein leiser, lauter Schmerzensschrei, a faint, loud cry of pain. Then strings begin a rampage of eighth note figuration. A descending dotted rhythmic phrase from the trumpet fanfare of the first movement invades the music, and an extended version of the heroic theme from the finale of The first Symphony rings out in horns. Fragments of the string theme are wildly blurted out in trumpets, against rising triplets, and a barrage of sixteenths that rip through the musical fabric. While insistent cries of the Schmidt’s motive, motive be beg for relief from the terrible anguish expressed here. Suddenly the furious eighth node figuration is cut off by a slashing off beat stroke. Here is the entire opening section, in which all the motives just mentioned appear.

This sudden stroke that cuts off the raging string figuration gives way to waves of arpeggiation and dotted rhythms that thrust forward into a new theme and the violins, three times the violins tried to raise themselves into the theme on rising minor seconds. Finally, they succeed, and the second subject emerges, composed primarily of a falling turn figure and a diminutive version of the cry of distress mode to be answered by rising and falling seconds in the horns. The second subject contrasts markedly with the first, despite the former’s retaining some of the ladders surging fury, mostly in brief swells into the second beat on the horns. As the main theme of the second subject develops, it becomes more intense, showing signs of devolving back into the first subject. The trumpet declaims a variation of the fanfare from the first movement.

Soon the violin’s first subject returns telescoped into the second subject so that one hardly notices that it has infested the music with its maniacal rage. motive A juts out furiously in the horns against the fanfare-like trumpet figure heard earlier, and the raging string figuration re-enters as the tempo presses forward, arising seven upbeats on a dotted rhythm is added to the first subject string theme for greater force and intensity. syncopated rapier thrusts on the trombone punctuate the strings, rapid figuration until it runs headlong into a huge A minor chord with trumpets restating the opening notes of the theme, a wild flurry of chromatically descending eighths erupts from the woodwinds and converges with the overlapping fragments of the first subject string figuration under which we hear cries of the Schmitz motive, motive B, that can be heard faintly in the strings. The woodwind figuration Peters out until it stops abruptly, leaving only a barely audible timpani roll.

Mahler frequently ends his scherzo movements or sections within them by gradually winding down rapid figuration that energizes them or fragmenting their thematic or motivic material until the music comes to a dead stop as here. For the moment the raging anger of the A section is spent, leaving only intermittent cries of distress on the Schmidt’s motive B and darting repeated eighths and woodwinds. As the tonality shifts to F minor, the temple slackens until that of the tower Marshal, the first movement begins. Softly the cellos single amend from the second part of the first movements funeral march theme, with motive B and the darting repeated eighth circling around it as if waiting for another opportunity to pounce on their prey.
Of course, Mahler has varied the theme slightly, making it seem broader by expanding sustained tones, and curiously emphasizing its little bohemian dance that figure by widening its rising interval to a sixth and adding an upward turn phrase. Clarinets enter on a counter theme that is actually an extension of the funeral march theme, into weaving with the cellos, similar extension. Soon first, violins develop the theme within a fascinating network of string polyphony. Although somber and plaintive, there is a touch of the constellation in the music that somehow soothes the pain caused by the violent eruption of anger.

Motive B becomes integrated into the theme as it climbs higher despite a downward pool exerted by intermittent measures of descending chromatics that reach a plateau on the falling minor second of the waltz, a momentary release from pain. As in the first movement, the song of lament gives way to the rising theme of hope in violin, after which we hear cries of distress, painfully asserted by violins and flutes.

Various themes that end with falling seconds that hang in midair, symbolize unresolved sorrow, throughout this entire section, a variant of the first movements of fate moto haunts the musical background. Soon horns hint of the return of the furious first subject, and cellos seem to be drawn reluctantly in the same direction. They grow up as if in the dark on a rising phrase that ends on a torture dominant seventh chord in the brass, aborting The music’s valiant efforts to find relief from suffering, and suddenly bringing back the raging anger of the opening. Introduced by the rapid waves of chromatic gates and the woodwinds that ended the previous A section, this stormy music returns with unabated fury, violins play the trumpet fanfare against motive A, punctuated by a conflation of the fanfares rising and falling minor thirds, brutally pounded out on the timpani. After a solo trumpet adds its voice trying to extend the tempestuous fanfare, theme, and augmented version appears in second violins against fragments of the original theme and woodwinds and cellos in the high register. In this abbreviated version of the A section, the polyphonic texture is thinned out somewhat replaced by string tremeloes. The strings carry the fanfare theme higher and higher against an echo and trombones until achieving a powerful climax on an augmented version of Schmidt’s motive B that emphasizes the falling minor second of the waltz is a bridge de section concludes as before, with the woodwinds racing forward wildly on the rapid figuration of the main theme until their anger is spent once again, and the music peters out to a harsh timpani roll. sustain twice as long as before.

As the B section returns now in E flat minor, and in a slow tempo, the cellos linger on an elongated version of the Schmerz motive for 20 measures with only the continued timpani roll, and later a soft, sustained G flat and violas for accompaniment, the cellos extend this motive on elements from the funeral march theme, into one of Mahler’s most touching passages. It’s cuasi airoso style foreshadows the opening of the 10th Symphony.

The dolorous was funeral march theme returns on two horns in octaves against the same rapid-fire repeating eighths that previously a company did. But the Schmerz motive is no longer rises only to fall by a minor second. Instead, its second interval is reversed, transforming a woeful sigh into a yearning for peace.

Other signs of hope appear as the funeral march theme is juxtaposed against the rising theme, overlapping in strings and horns. Both themes include the motive of the whoa at their high point, one seeking relief from suffering, the other reinforcing it. This two-note motive links the two themes together in tragedy.
As a clarinet and bassoon continue on the funeral march theme, low strings suddenly but softly hint that the trumpet fanfare theme from the A section echoed by muted horns on repeated thirds. Woodwinds and violins continue to press the funeral march theme forward, again, trying to reach the hope to redemption. At the same time, fragments of the A sections violin string figuration enter in low strings and begin to grow to infest the music almost undetectably with their poisonous wrath. Strings reach upward as at the conclusion of the first B section, despite mounting anger on references of the A section that be I’m increasingly prominent in the brass. Once again, all efforts to find a redeeming light are dashed. On the grace noted turn phrase from the funeral march theme, another diminished seventh chord abruptly and mercilessly aborts further progress, and the violence of the A section returns. Musically it is one of Mahler’s most brilliantly conceived transition passages for the cunning way in which fragments of the A section gradually forced their way in to that section’s reprise. Conceptually in his further evidence that reconciliation between hope and despondency is unachievable at this stage. Utilizing the telescoping technique to merge sections together, the A sections first subject re-enters before the B section reaches its end, interrupting it in the middle of its principal theme. After a single measure of motive a and low strings, the violins assert the A sections main theme, echoed by a solo trombone and then trumpet, rhat motive combines with an augmented version of the Schmidt’s motive be to urge the music forward as if pleading it not to dwell too long in this ugly mood. Both motives are successful in diverting the music from its violent course, on one leap of a super octave on the Schmidt’s motive, the music suddenly stops in mid measure, the tempo slows down, and the tower marks theme returns in B major, continuing where it left off before the angry first subject interrupted.

Mahler’s abrupt alternations between the A and B sections create a stream of consciousness effect, in which confusion caused by conflicting emotions of anger and sorrow becomes virtually unbearable, even bordering on the edge of insanity.
As an indication that Schmidt’s motive has not succeeded in overcoming the sections violent anger, that motive becomes part of the funeral march theme, still steeped in sorrow on wide leaps, it swells to sforzando as if to emphasize its frustration and being unable to relieve the torment of the first subject.

Once again, the funeral march theme of sins on our augmented version of the Schmerz motive, in an effort to overcome the pain expressed by this motive. Suddenly the pace quickens, the tonality shifts to A flat major and the music becomes more strident and assertive. The A section’s trumpet fanfare now returns and combines in canonic treatment with an uncharacteristically demonstrative rendition of elements from the Trauermarsch theme, what was a dolorous funeral procession now becomes a steward military march that recalls the strength and self-assurance Revelge.

As the music presses forward, it continues to ascend, this time on a variant of the Schmerz motive that incorporates the clipped dotted rhythm of motive Z from the first movement. The music becomes more unbalanced as it rises, with accents shifting from strong to weak beats. Just when a redemptive climax seems within reach the Schmerz motive wells up again on a super octave leap, stretching its resolution from a minor to a major interval, brass resounds with an augmented version of the trumpet fanfare from the A section, now bright and heroic, as it seems to herald the dawning of a new day. timpani energetically pound out a volley of eighths on the fourth interval against ascending string arpeggios that usher in an augmented version of the motive Z rhythm, which had been urging the music forward toward its long-awaited goal but once more a diminished seventh chord in mid measure dashes all hope of resolution, as it brings back the angry music of the A section. Now more furious than ever, it flails out the Scmerz motive rapidly in successive repetitions.

But the glimpse of a redeeming vision just witnessed is not completely destroyed. It must await its proper time when anger and mourning have truly spent themselves and have been fully absorbed into consciousness so that they can play a positive role in the process of human development. Repeated yelps of the Schmidt’s motive beg for mercy. While slashing diminished seventh chords send a torrent of staccato descending chromatic scales, from trumpets against rapid-fire repeating eighth in woodwinds, the wild string figuration and trumpet fanfare from the first subject vent their wrath with renewed vigor. As the music reaches a fever pitch. It is cut short as before, by a slashing stroke at the end of the bar, at this point, we might expect the reprise of the doleful second subject to the asexual, following a few vamp-like measures of string arpeggios, and cries of the Shmerz motive set against reverting values of the fate motive. Instead, the tower marks theme unexpectedly returns stretching out its plaintive melody over these motivic figures with greater emphasis. As this theme develops, the hopeful rising theme enters over it in the horns, extending into the motive of longing that soon becomes part of the theme itself. Before it does the Scmertz motive is added to the theme and violins. A subtle reference to the trumpet fanfare of the A sections first subject appears in the cellos and is immediately taken up by the violins, whose more lyrical version is set against the incessant knocking of fate and the trumpets.

Relentlessly the longing motive builds against the pleading cries of the Schmertz motive. Yet the wild fury of the A sections first subject will not be denied. Not only does it reassert itself with terrifying force, stretching out its eighth node figuration into quarter note triplets for emphasis, but it ushers in music to which it is most related in temperament, the first trio from the opening movement, it should be noticed that the return of this parallel strain from the previous movement begins with an augmented version of the Scmertz motive, highlighting the relationship between the first subject of the A section and its counterpart in the first movements trio section.

When the key changes to E minor, the rising theme makes an effort to recover from its renewed violence and appears to succeed, throughout this unnerving struggle between raging anger and yearning for consolation, both the fate model and the Schmertz motive remain in the background as constant reminders of what is at stake in this ever shifting conflict. Once again the violins lament begins to rise higher, though hesitatingly at first, then it suddenly springs up on a super octave leap and presses forward urgently as if risking everything on one last effort. Offbeat accents jab and falling chromatics that follows this death-defying awkward leap until the music shatters and falls in order to defeat. A fanfare-like pronouncement and the brass on the first few notes with the anger theme, with its painful to send in chromatics, plunges the music into the depths of grief.

All efforts at fulfillment seem to have led only to total collapse. This climactic passage is one of the most painful in all of Mahler’s music. Its dark tones and broad-line elongation of the A section second subject is almost too much to bear. Yet the anger theme tries to rise out of the abyss, asserting its impulsive first measure repeatedly against the morose tower marks theme and violins. A winding figure and woodwinds add impulse to a heroic effort to gather enough strength for another attempt at resolving the conflict. As the pace increases, the anger themes seems to have been enlisted in the forces seeking relief from that widget it helped to engender in combination with the funeral march theme and the schmutz motive. It is joined by the trumpet tattoo theme, all climb higher with renewed energy, as if undaunted by past failures to thrusts of the smarts motive on Super octave, leaps in woodwinds and strings carried on the shoulders of motive a and string basis. And the trumpet fanfare in horns, lead to a broad extension of that motive asserted by trumpets and trombones in a resilient D major, heralding a glorious redemption, an intervallic leap of an octave rather than a ninth, and the descent of a whole step rather than a half gives the Schmerz motive a brighter and more confident character. Instead of a cry of despair, it summons victory, the frenetic string figuration now sublight into arpeggios, and alternating ascending and descending scales to accompany a dynamic brass chorale. A sense of urgency impels the music onward, stirred by waves of rising string figuration We have arrived at long last to the glorious vision of redemption was coming had been foretold earlier in this movement. The music bursts forth on waves of string arpeggios, and scalar figuration reinforced by the heart. Now the grand corral can truly emerge, resounding in all its glory in the resilient tones of a full brass choir. Brass extends the grand corral on that heroic phrase that begins with the ascending, stepwise, upbeat of the motive of longing, and continues on a series of three-quarter couplets, the last two of which fall by a fourth, a subtle evocation of the heroic theme from the finale of the First Symphony. A volley of accelerating triplets on the trumpets propels the music forward urging on the glorious corral the Schmerz motive no longer falling by the minor second of the wall again reaches to the heights. Its former sorrowful character completely dispelled by the glorious music that surrounds it, it attains complete transformation, as a thunderous volley of triplets ushers in a climactic D major chord. So as to leave no doubt that this chord represents the climax not only of this movement but also of part one, Mahler designates this chord as the high point, whole point. A magnificent feeling of fulfillment and release overwhelms the music. Let’s listen to the entire section to get the full impact of this magnificent moment.

With this grand chorale relief from suffering seems to have been realized, but it does not last long. It’s appearances but a glimpse of promised redemption yet to be achieved. The music subsides gradually as this grand vision fades away, then as if awaiting an opportunity to reassert itself, motive A enters cautiously and in fragments scattered among strings and brass, but gradually spreading out like a plague woodwinds suddenly release a welter of descending chromatic triplets that bring back the original version of the Schmerz motive and the violins asserted with increasing strength. The trumpet fanfare theme also returns, there can be no doubt that the enraged music of the A section still has some life left in it, despite its having been expelled for a time by the monumental grand chorale. A smattering of repeated descending triplets seems to mark this redemptive vision as if it were an illusion. Although the violence of the A section seems somewhat tempered now, there can be little doubt that its rage still smolders in the wake of the grand chorale. As this turbulent music builds to a climax, it becomes more strident on slashing strokes in brass and strings propelled upward on a rising scale into a clipped dotted rhythmic figure. The anger theme firmly demonstrates its renewed vigor and attenuated power. It builds to a powerful climax on fierce dotted rhythms, leading to an overwhelming orchestral outburst on a weak beat. How to which the rapid string figuration of the first subject attempts to reassert itself.
Yet the first subject string figuration seems unable to manage a few bars until it becomes fragmented, evidencing degeneration. The tempo eases up as well as only little scraps of the first subject sputter out in the strings, given an impish quality by grace note filigree.

A muted trumpet haltingly plays a segment of the fanfare theme that diminishes as ushers in the coda. One should be left with no doubt that the miraculous appearance of the grand chorale has had an impact upon the fierceness of the first subject’s anger, but has not completely annihilated it. In veiled sooner sonorities generated by repeating low flagellated triplets in the opera strings, sprinkled with isolated staccato notes and woodwinds and harp, the anger theme slowly trudges on in low strings, completely exhausted from its rampage. The Schmerz motive with glimmerings of the fate model and the opening fragment of the first subject, all haunt the final measures, seriously weakened by what it has undergone during this movement. The vehement music of the first subject seems completely debilitated, leaves us to wonder whether the conflict has been resolved. Only three bass notes slowly descend to a full cadence at the very end of the movement.
The last of these plotting low tones sounds on the timpani, like a half-hearted thought.

But the coda gives no reassurance that the disruptive forces might not reassert themselves in the future. If the meaning of a coda is that they have been tamed, and even partially integrated into the self, other negative aspects await to be confronted before the goal of worldly redemption from suffering can be achieved.

By Lew Smoley

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