Listening Guide – Movement 3: Scherzo

Transcript

Judging by the atmosphere established at the beginning, it will appear that this movement achieves a perfect state of equanimity that is far removed from the turmoil and conflict that suffuses the first two movements. If so, it would seem totally disconnected from the whole or a mere diversion from the main argument. One might draw the same conclusion even if the movement were placed second, coming after the aggressive and energetic first movement. Although Mahler considered some of the middle movements in his early symphonies, particularly the first and second simply as intermittency or diverted small that function simply as relief from the angst-ridden questions posed in the first movement, the middle period symphonies are more dramatically cohesive, and their inner movements relate, however tangentially to the symphonies principal arguments.
When one examines this Andante movement more deeply, its serenity seems artificial, even inauthentic, as if merely covering deeply painful wounds, a sense of distance freezes the emotions conveyed here, giving the impression that they are something less than genuine and under constant restraint, as the movement unwinds and underlying disease emerges and eventually increases until the music bursts are its emotive confines, and overflows with passionate longing. Mahler employs a similar procedure in Kindertotenlieder, it’s been numbed manner of expression, occasionally deluged with an outpouring of emotion, the song cycle is also linked to the Andante by musical references. The cellos, broken chord arpeggios that accompany the main theme are found in the fourth song of Kindertotenlieder, while a recurring cadential phrase is taken from the first song. More importantly, the calm atmosphere in which the movement opens is wrought by its gently flowing theme that seems to wander aimlessly for a time, as if in a trance.
Most commentators treat the Andante as an interlude that has little of anything to do with the rest of the symphony, while it contains few musical references to other movements and is thus distinguished, for example, from the Fifth Symphony, with its thematic ties between the adagietto and the finale. The Andante’s dramatic import does relate to the symphonies underlying conceptual premise and is, therefore, no mere diversion. Certainly, the Mephistopheles and mockery of the hero that permeates the scherzo movement should shake him to the quick at some subconscious level, he must admit that there is some truth in Mephistopheles disdainful criticism of the heroes pose.
After all, what is heroic about a life that is doomed to end without fulfillment? But if the hero is to answer that question, he must first look inward for the source for which such an answer can arise. Before reaching the main crisis that awaits him in the finale, the hero must deal with and respond to the mean-spirited Barb’s cast that his nature in the scherzo the slow movement provides the setting for that self-examination and introspection, instead of reacting with anger or disdain, and thereby playing into Mephistopheles caricature of him, our fausty and hero searches into the depths of his soul, and conjures up a vision of lost innocence and serenity, to calm his perturbed spirit and to regain his strength for the ultimate battle that will begin in the finale. In a nostalgic reverie, he conjures up a vision of a peaceful world long gone. soft and gentle phrases convey a sense of inner calm that had been threatened by Mephistophele’s taunting mockery in the previous movements. A tender rocking phrase, based on the motive of childhood innocence, invokes the memory of a lullaby sung at the cradle cowbells evokes a pastoral Dreamworld remote from the hero’s troubled reality. transfigured chords imbue the scene with a wistful aura, creating a sense of mystery that soothes rather than frightens. In this dream world, the hero can find peace and troubled by the anguish of his internal struggles. But his inner torments are too intense to remain completely repressed. And soon they rise to the surface in outpourings of passion, that cry out for the return of lost innocence and the comfort of peace. The soft wistful atmosphere of the opening recalls the forest murmurs scene and Sigfried in which that other hero rests for a moment, lost in a pastoral reverie, virtually becoming I mean one with nature, and then cries out for his mother as a symbol of security and natural love before he confronts the dragon, itself a symbol of what Robert Duncan refers to in Jungian terms as Sigfried shadow. One might also describe the movement as a long sigh precipitated by the sense of loss that society suffers in an era of rapid decline.

The Rondo form of the Andante movement is somewhat unusual, in that the thematic material of the ritornello or the A sections is motivity related to that of the two episodes the B sections, although they differ in other respects. Thus ternary song form is combined with Rondo and then dovetailed to form an arch-like shape of the entire movement. transitions from one section to another occurred during the movements extreme tension made even more disconcerting by Mahler’s use of telescoping he remains the tonal center of the movement, despite various modulations although the principal key is a flat Major, an episode that begins the development section, first in E minor and then an E major, Mahler’s heavenly key makes a strong impression. While there are few cyclical links with the other movements, a variant of the brass chorale from the first movement does appear reaffirming its role as an all too fleeting vision of the last piece. Without any introduction beyond the Andante movement begins with the principal theme in E flat major played softly in muted violins. We’ll call this theme A. Occasional flattened notes on F and G and a turn figure. Linda hinda astrologer to the tendered lyricism of this theme, the turn figure anticipates the themes cadential phrase, which is taken from the first song of Kindertotenlieder, we’re in a song to the words of Freudenlicht der Welt, joyful light of the world. Here implicitly imbuing the theme with a nostalgic quality, essentially song-like in both form and substance, the theme is reminiscent not only of that song cycle, but of the last of the Gesellen songs.
Before the cadence, it contains an impassioned upward leap of a minor seventh, that proceeds into a rocking figure of double node couplets that is a variant of the motive of childlike innocence. Let’s listen to the opening theme through the Kindertotenlieder cadence.

Here’s the credential phrase from the first Kindertotenlieder, which also appears in the fifth symbol.

asymmetrical and shape, the theme seems to ramble along aimlessly wandering into melodic byways that do not follow naturally from what preceded them. The first few notes of the theme have the same shape as the beginning of the Alma theme from the first movement, therefore relate to the motive of longing. Although the violins are directed to play expressively, they are also muted, so that the theme’s romantic nature is slightly veiled. After the full cadence, the principal theme continues to develop for a few measures, producing a variant theme, A-one, that floats tenderly on the rising chromatics of its opening two notes, and a gentle grace note in turn. The third bar of this variant also contains a falling half-step figure that relates to the very last notes of the heroic theme of the first movement, which in its earlier guys had dropped by a seventh instead of a second. Let’s listen to that.

Floating as if in a dream world, the second theme in G minor, derived from elements of the first theme is tenderly played on the English horn, and gently cradled by the wafting motion of the flutes on the motive of childhood innocence.

When the solo horn enters with a slightly altered version of the principal theme, theme A two accompanied by harp arpeggios, the home key is reestablished. The theme shifts to the strings and concludes with the Kindertotenlieder cadence in woodwinds.

Then theme A two returns, played softly by flute clarinet and second violins. Soon a lyrical variant of the childlike innocence mode and follows in violins will have motivic significance later in the movement.

As the A section concludes, the rocking motive and cellos which the florist calls the cradle motive is followed by a sequence of falling eighth’s, taken from the main theme that becomes more prominent as the movement proceeds. Gradually, the music dies away, as that motive quietly descends into the base.

At this point, Mahler makes one of his most creative and briefest transitions, similar to one that occurred during the adagietto from the Fifth Symphony, sustained a string tones on G in harmonics, rise by an octave to introduce the first episode in E minor. A pastoral atmosphere permeates the opening measures, and oboe recalls the motive of childlike innocence and a clarinet follows with the descending eighth-note figure from the main theme, introducing a new melody in solo horn which itself is a variant of the main theme we referred to earlier as motive A two.

As this new theme expands and becomes more passionate, it shifts from one orchestral section to another, accompanied by the falling eighth-note figure in the bass. The breadth and depth of the orchestration in this passage enhance its dramatic bearing as the music builds to a brief climax of bittersweet long, on variations of the following eighth note figure from the main theme theme A, in violins echoed by the horns. There is a soothing quality to this music notwithstanding its melancholia. As the first episodes main section comes to a close violins distort the cadential phrase from Kindertotenlieder with wider intervals and slides between notes, giving this phrase a heart sore quality. After a few measures of the childlike innocence motive in woodwinds, this Kindertotenlieder phrase becomes more regularized, its rising integrally shortened, and then falls by an octave instead of a super octave, preparing for a key modulation to E major, the key of the second part of the first episode.

Building from the bases open fifth in E major, a rising eighth-note figure, accompanied by triplet rhythms, creates the impression of a sunrise that emerges from a distant hillside, coming after the plaint of the previous section. This transcendent music brings a ray of hope, not unlike the feeling generated by the uplifting C major sections of Kindertotenlieder second song, horns ring out with a rising call that seems to summon us to new heights of self-illumination. Cowbells enter not from a distance but in the midst of the orchestra, no longer evoking pastoral serenity, decorative woodwind trills triplet figuration based on a fragment of the new sunrise theme, and string and Celestia swirling figures accompany the motive of childlike innocence. Now attached to the falling eighth-note figure, first in solo trumpet, and then woodwinds, these divergent elements can join to create a jubilant atmosphere for the first and only time during this movement. The hero seems to recall the carefree happiness of his youth. Soon this joy as interlude begins to fade on the motive of childlike innocence in violins, it gives way to descending chromatic triplets that fall into the base with a sequence of falling eighths. The first episode concludes in telescopic fashion, as an oboe and clarinet enter over its last notes played in the bass with the main theme, theme A, to usher in the opening sections reprise in the tonic key.

Woodwinds continue with the theme, while a single flute and violins play a lush counter theme. That is what the Rondo theme in outline. Second violins with a fluid added follow with the first variation of the Rondo theme, theme A one, gorgeous sustained chords round out the brief reprise of the Rondo section, as the music seems to hold its breath in anticipation of redemptive transcendence. Instead, the sustained chords dissolve, creating a mysterious aura that unexpectedly leads to the second episode, divisible into three segments, the second of which can be further divided into two parts, this second episode is framed by a glowing halo of C major in high woodwinds and low basis. Its first segment presents a new theme pieced together from fragments of the Rondo theme. First, the falling eighth-note figure, then the motive of childlike innocence, and finally, the turn figure from the opening.

Sunlight softly shines through in the brilliance generated by the appearance of A major during the second segment, horns expand upon the motive of childlike innocence and fashion from it heavenly chords in strings and woodwinds against the falling eighth-note figure in the bass, the converse of the main themes opening notes. That figure soon reverses direction in the strings, harp, and Celestia. Mahler brings back the glissando octaves in strings that ushered in the first episode to introduce the second part of this segment. Just as the serenity that was temporarily forestall that the opening of the second episodes seems to approach realization. And oboe tenderly sings the horn theme from the first episode in a melancholy A minor, over a sustained high A and violins for smaller marks to be played the iron hole like a breath.
Woodwinds provide a counterpoint on an extension of the falling eighth note figure. Here is the second part of the second episode.

The bittersweet oboe plaint diverts the music from its course and brings with it a strong reaction. Just when it would seem as if the main theme will now return, the key changes to C sharp minor, and the full orchestra enters strongly with the third and final segment of the second episode, during which the music becomes increasingly passionate. The oboe and horn theme is now transferred to the bass against a rising version of his outline in the treble. On a sky opening the seventh chord is impassionate music reaches a stirring climax, and as quickly as it appeared, the climax dissolves, making it seem forced and unnatural. Yet Mahler extends the climax by having the full orchestra continue to press forward after the powerful seventh chord occurs on an extended version of the falling eighth-note figure, as the tonality modulates to F sharp. Another unanticipated plateau is reached when the violins increased to fortissimo cowbells enter and the main temple returns. The following eighth-note figure stated emphatically and violins the quote from various opera hotel that appeared in the finale of the third symphony, the temple drives forward with greater urgency on an inverted variant of the falling eighth notes that climbs chromatically. Before the surging passage reaches its goal, the main theme suddenly enters in the depths of the orchestra, like an apparition, heralding the reprise of the principal Rondo section, which continues in violins and woodwinds. Here we have yet another example of Mahler’s telescoping technique. As the violins play the turn figure, horns play a four-note phrase that recalls the brass corral of the first movement.

One is touched by this moving plea for a returned childhood innocence and the comfort of genuine human love. Soon strings and flutes ascend heavenward against the falling eighth note phrase and come to rest solidly on the tonic key of E flat as they sing with deep emotion. A variant of that phrase first heard in the strings during the first episode, the soaring version of the eighth note figure from Kindertotenlieder that also appeared during the first episode returns as well, adding a visionary quality to the music of this poignant passage.

Once again the music hastens on, rising on the motive of childlike innocence in high strings. Woodwinds and violins also was sent on the main theme in a sublime expression of majestic beauty. Soon the music’s ardent yearning sours as a dark cloud suddenly descends over the music. The tonality shifts to a flat minor, as flutes and strings, climb higher, still trying to regain the serenity, but now seems to have given way to gloom. a premonition of tragic fate casts a shadow over the atmosphere. As the music softens, the violins alone reached a sustained high C, out of which low woodwinds and strings interject a diminished chord that resolves to the tonic on a weak beat, seeming to infer that all may not yet be lost. As the orchestral forces thin out to a small chamber ensemble, the music fades on playful rhythmic permutations of the Kindertotenlieder variant of the following eighth-note figure that now sounds like a distant recollection of lost innocence.
Aimless, wandering triplets in middle strings go nowhere, the falling eighth-note figure becomes increasingly slower, and finally comes to rest in the base, over a somber E flat chord in horns, cut off by a lonely bass string pizzicato note that puts a period to this poignant meditation of the soul.

Maybe it was all a dream, a restful interlude in which our hero like Sigfried conjures up thoughts of more peaceful and innocent days when Mother Love, innocence, and untroubled peace or his for a time. But unlike Sigfried, our hero has been confronted with the tragic nature of his own being and can do no more in overcoming it, than to seek solace in the past and hope for its return.
Without fully incorporating all aspects of the self into consciousness, and making them work constructively for self-development, the eternal return could not provide a remedy to the self-destructive doubts that plagued the hero after he was confronted with his shadow outside in the first two movements.


By Lew Smoley

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