In the progression of life forms that Mahler sought to characterize in the Third Symphony, man stands midway between inanimate nature and the Supreme Being. Although depicted as the animal’s antagonist in the third movement, man is portrayed in the fourth novel as the hero exerting dominant power over his domain, but as an existential being self consciously aware of his mortality that causes him traumatic angst and profound confusion. His primal doubts and fears make him the quintessential tragic figure. His anguish is not merely about his end, after which there might well be some other sort of existence, but the prospect of utter annihilation. Man is the creature who strives for eternal existence, his greatest desire, being the antithesis of his most terrible fear, eternal joy.
In expressing this view of man’s inner essence, nature offered a new and daring approach to the instinctual human urge to develop, that is to seek fulfillment, what nature calls the will to power is potentially stronger than the fear of annihilation. Those are the darkest hour midnight, which for Nietzsche to symbolize the moment least illuminated by the eternal light of perception. Man turns inward, he probes the depths of his consciousness, to seek the light he needs to reveal a path to self-fulfillment. Man can find the meaning that he yearns for in this world, rather than spend his earthly life awaiting an otherworldly redemption.
In developing and realizing the potential of his inner strength, he can overcome the self-doubts that plagued him and thus master his being, only then can he stand at the highest our would need to call the great noon when no shadow of doubt has cast on his spirit that could impede his progress to self-mastery in the deepest regions of his soul, Mahler must have understood what he was trying to accomplish by this perspective, for Mahler to was constantly subject to doubts about the meaning and value of life, which he sought to resolve in his music. For a time he found in Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra a different answer to the existential questions that tormented him than the one he offered at the end of the Second Symphony.
Later, Mahler would reject the German philosopher’s aristocratic radicalism and finally cast Nietzsche aside, because of his break with Wagner. Nonetheless, certain of Nietzsche’s ideas continued to exert a profound influence on Mahler after the Third Symphony. Although no longer as overtly in the fourth movement, Mahler creates a prophetic atmosphere, perfectly attuned to Nietzsche’s text, it is as if we are standing before an abyss, looking into the depths of the soul, then a mysterious air to like voice summons us to see ourselves as we truly are. An undulating rhythm similar to the one that introduced the music of the life, negating forces in the opening movements first section, reappears to set the scene.
Hear the rhythm is virtually horizontal. That’s different from its anticipation in the first movement.
Did Mahler intend to imply by this reference, that man stands on the brink of his own negation? Or, are his fears of death, the foundation of his being? What may be more to the point is that Nietzsche has text is actually a mirror image of the meaning of the entire Symphony, the conflict between anti-life forces that prey upon human suffering to negate man’s creative potential, and the life-affirming forces that seek to enhance creativity, find a perfect parallel it Nietzsche has profound words, man must suffer existential doubts in order to find the strength to overcome them and becomes stronger and more self-affirming.
In the fourth movement man tells us his greatest Whoa, which he urgently needs to overcome, it parallels the animal’s greatest fear, which is ironically man himself, but man is the animal conscious of his own being, and by self-referential consciousness becomes psychologically problematic when he turns upon himself. Where the animal’s enemy is external, man’s greatest adversary is himself, his inner demon that haunts him with self-doubts and fears. Such internalization is viewed as a development of being in his progression to the pure spirit and another parallel with the progression of being represented in the Third Symphony.
To capture in music, the essence of the psychological state, expressed in Nietzsche’s poem is a daunting task. Mahler knew that pure melody would not suffice. Thus, he created a song, the only one he wrote during the last 15 years of the 19th century, on a text not taken from the Wunderhorn poems, and this song, interestingly enough, is without a single theme. It is a meditation in a quasar rich teeth style, set against a bear orchestral background, over which sounds of nature no longer playfully innocent as in the animal’s movement, hover over the abyss of man’s tragic fate.
As in the early movement from the Second Symphony, the dark strains of the opening passage are pierced by the light of truth. Yet unlike earlier, the movement ends in the same dark, dismal atmosphere in which it began. Although a brief moment of revelatory light appears, it will be of no significance for man if he does not understand its meaning and act upon it. As we heard earlier, the movement opens with hushed, sustained tones in low strings, automating with an undulating rhythm, all of which recalls the closing section of the introduction to the first movie. A sense of mystery fills the midnight stillness, falling seconds that follow the rhythmic undercurrent form a germinal motif that symbolizes both tragedy, the motive of wall in the minor key, and acceptance of destiny in the major. Out of the abyss and alto voice gently summons man, Paul Minch to give here to her oracular pronouncements in a corral-like phrase that is reminiscent of the opening of Orleans.
And the nature movement bear comparison. The former is distinguished by its otherworldly religiosity, and the latter by its Earthbound humanistic philosophy. After the altos, Delphix summons to mankind, the undulating rhythm and the base becomes more rapid. It’s a rhythmic pulse, seven notes to the beat, add a feeling of imbalance or even this embodiment that pervades the entire first section. Along with sustain pedal point on an open fifth, creates the illusion of infinite space. Yet the profound aura that envelops the music is based upon the simplest, dominant tonic harmony just as air to warn Wotan of impending doom Indus Rheingold the alto cautions man to take heed gemacht her admonition is made even more chilling by being sung to a falling minor second, corn softly intone an elongated version of the resurrection mode from the second simple-sounding hearing more ambivalent than it had in that symphonies finale.
The alto then accompanies the horns in a diminutive version of that motive an ascending minor third in the oboe, and later in the English horn sounds like an eerie call from the beyond Mahler director that would be played in outseam, Vi natural, outdrawn upward, like a natural tone, which is taken to mean portamento or kind of rising slide. This is very difficult for the double-read instrument to do and is often just accomplished by a slur.
The motive of wall a falling minor second conveys the following phrase the text eesh sleep, I sleep, an arch like phrase is sung to the words, house teeth and town finish air VA followed yet again by the wall motor, some to the words Die Welt ist tief, the world is deep. This time it’s a minor second, emphasizes the tragic nature of the words and causes occasional harmonic reversion to the minor mode. As the A section concludes on a full cadence to the words, auto steer tog guitar, the atmosphere brightens with the change of key to D major violins and then horns offer an enchanting arioso like duet on an expanded variant of the resurrection motive. There are haunting strains project a feeling of hope for an end to man’s long-troubled search for an answer to the eternal questions that plague him. But soon the minor key returns and with it the undulating rhythm of the opening section, as the atmosphere again darkens and becomes tenuous. The oboes eerie call of nature sounds once more after which the undulating bass rhythm closes the movements first port.
Mahler had at one time and titled this strange oboe phrase, der Vogel der Nacht. the bird of night corresponding to the nightingale song in their Grace Hopper from the finale of the Second Symphony. The faint undulating rhythm fades away as the alto voice enters to reprise the chilling summons or Mench that brings us back to the opening of the movement and thereby to the A section. Here given an abridged reprise the words teeth, his ear their deep as its Whoa, our song to a fragment of the dark fearful sounds of the life-negating forces from the first movement. Another reference to that movement occurs when the solo violin virtually quotes the resurrection theme, almost exactly as It was played by the solo trumpet during the opening section of the first movement. Again, the oboe sounds its call of nature, ending on a downward plunge as a horn plays the longing motif. The solo violin accompanies the singer as it develops the resurrection theme. In an incredibly prophetic passage, the alto sings, loose tiefer knockouts henselae to a phrase that anticipates the phrase sung to the words Allah right here these are Erde, all the riches of the earth in the trink lead movement of Das Lied von der Erde, here is the passage from the Fourth Movement.
And here is how that passage is transformed. When used for the text that speaks of when the newest desire of leatrice pome becomes arratia riches hidden dos lead.
The B section returns on the words they should predict fair gay. Whoa says be gone. song to the same phrase that had been used earlier for the words tief ist deep visits Whoa. The tonic major finally returns with the final line that expresses hope for eternal happiness. song to the resurrection theme. Gently rising heaven word. The music comes to rest on the undulating rhythm, sounding the harmonic form of the fate motive, the falling minor second, in much the same way that it appeared before the final chromatic descent that closes the first movement of the Second Symphony.
The oboes call of nature is heard in the distance, a final summons, calling man to his destiny. The movement closes as it began, in murky uncertainty on undulating rhythms in strings that slowly fade away into sustained tones as at the beginning of the movement. We are enveloped in darkness and mystery.
By Lew Smoley.