Listening Guide – Movement 3: Ruhevoll (poco adagio)


Although this movement is by far the longest in the symphony, it is not the symphony’s focal point, that distinction is accorded to the finale, which appears to be Mahler’s shortest final movement. Nevertheless, the Adagio movement placed between a spectral scherzo and a childlike finale provides a perfect respite from the vagaries of the former, and an ideal introduction to the heavenly fantasy of the ladder. Its apparent simplicity is belied by its complex developmental technique and creative method of dramatic and motivic transformation. With its warm and tender sentiments of serenity and yearning, and its variation form, the Adagio can be compared to the finale of The Third Symphony, although restful, devotional, and contemplative. Its mode of expression never becomes more laden or excessively effusive. In fact, sometimes it sparkles with gaiety and occasionally is tinged with melancholy and nostalgic longing. Neville Cardus has characterizes the movement as Mahler’s backward glances at the springtime of his life. Mahler thought the Adagio was his best slow movement, possibly his best movement overall. BrunoWalter relates a conversation he had with a composer in which Mahler divulges the source of his inspiration. The recumbent stone images of sarcophagi in a cathedral, had inspired him to the presentation of eternal peace in which they dwelt.
In a different vein, Mahler suggested to his friend and confidant not only Bauer Lechner, that he was trying to depict a smiling Saint Ursula, although he knew nothing of the legends about her Mahler depicted her as a melancholy though kindly person whose smile was tinged with a hint of pain. The thought of that smile would evoke in him memories of his mother’s incessant suffering, born without complaint, and without a negative effect upon her caring nature. It may have been the connection between St. Ursula and Molly’s mother that prompted Derek cook to refer to the movement as a transfigured cradle song. In fact, Mahler occasionally expresses his own mother longing, in a melodic phrase that sounds much like a lullaby, symbolizing Mahler’s longing for the innocence and simplicity of childhood. The Adagio structure combines two typically classical forms, Sonata, and variations, though used in a far from traditional manner, as in the other movements of the fourth, frequent deviations from the classical form occasionally generate an unmistakable touch of parody. A bass ostinato figure played by low strings in piziacato, which Becker calls the bell motive gives the main sections a strong passive car you’re feeling within the context of variation form, even this underlying rhythmic figure undergoes variation during the movement.

And in genius sequence variations increasingly faster tempos, which I call tiered Legros serves as a diverting centerpiece. lush strings sonorities prevail for the most part and enhanced by rich low strings. As the movement progresses, the opening theme is modified and revised so often and with such variety, that the original theme itself is threatened with extinction. Only a sudden orchestral outburst of E major clears the air, bringing with it a blaze of bright sunlight, out of which a hint of the finale’s main theme shines forth triumphantly gorgeous string harmonies grace the heavenly closing coda, which Mahler referred to as the music of the spheres. The soft, tender, and long line melody that opens the Adagio movement has several possible sources. Its chordal configuration and sustained fluency are similar to the opening measures of the third number from Act One of Fidelio.

While it’s repeating pizzicato accompaniment recalls a Schubert song Vos is Silvia.

Pizzicato’s motive will return in the ninth symphonies first movement as a fate motif. elements of the opening theme derived from the main theme of the first movement, as in the third Symphony is Adagio movement, the principal melody is played by the strings alone, at first without violins, which do not enter for 16 measures. The first theme consists of two independent segments. It begins with long sustained chords that rise slowly at first, and then produce an arch shape phrase in the cellos high register. Beginning in embryonic form, the themes soon blossoms into full bloom from the sustained chords with which the movement began. Mahler repeats this process, flattening out the arched phrase so that it no longer rises as high as it had at first.

The second violins enter with the theme second part, a song-like melody, embellished with turns in the string accompaniment, under which the pits of cattle motive continues on its seemingly perpetual path. Second, violins expand upon the theme second part, giving it an expression of deep longing. With the support of a similarly shaped phrase played in the high register of the cellos.

An oboe enters with the second part of the principal theme, against sustained string harmonies. violins then ascend to a higher register, as they further expand upon the principal theme. Before long, they are cut off by a brief interlude for horns, bassoons and cellos on the first part of the theme, during which the underlying pizzicato motive is absent.

To hushed high string harmonies that evoke heavenly serenity, the main themes first part returns and with it, the pizzicato motive, a variation of the second part of the theme, and violas and bassoons is shaped like the resurrection theme from the finale of the Second Symphony, which here serves as an important element of the first theme, the A section closes on long-held chords over the pizzicato motive.

As the tempo slackens, a solo oboe opens the B section with a plaintive melody in E minor, which constitutes the second principal theme of the movement in a schubertian thematic transformation, this new theme compresses elements from the first themes first part. The ascending nodes that begin the new theme also relate to the scared soul’s main theme, and to the fourth theme of the first movement, each beginning in a similar manner. A diminutive version of the pizzicato motive, played in staccato by a single bassoon accompanies the theme, as it develops, it takes on a yearning quality that derives from the inclusion of the motive of longing, continuously extending its upward thrust, and containing a decorative gruppetto figure towards the end. The second theme closes with a one bar cadential figure in the oboe that paraphrases the trumpets when they introduced their Kleiner Apel in the first movement, a restful yet figurative violin phrase rises quickly into a syncopated figure, from which a radically distorted version of the oboe cadence enters on wide intervals, that suddenly plunged to the depths on a super octave dive echoed by the horns.

To the double-time version of the pizzicato motive used exclusively in the B section, and oboe plays a variation of the second theme, rising into a semi cadence on a phrase that foreshadows the music sung to the words warum so dunkel von Flammen: why so dark of flame in the second song of Kindertotenlieder.

This lilting phrase that almost seems to be inserted at the high point of the theme, provides a fleeting moment of tenderness. A horn picks up the new variation, carrying it quickly into a passionate outpouring on the repetitions of the motive of longing in the violins.
Longings falling seconds are succeeded by long downward leaps in increasingly wider intervals. propel the music to a powerful climax, akin to the way in which the A section ended, the new thematic variation becomes distorted by being forced to descend chromatically. At this moment, it would seem that all hope of heavenly fulfillment is dashed in the sequence of overlapping plunges into the abyss. One is reminded of the three painful climaxes in the finale of The third Symphony, in which the life-negating forces intervene to hinder the attainment of ultimate redemption. A deeply moving statement of a fragment from the second theme’s new variation is played with the deepest sorrow by low strings.

During this climax, D minor is firmly established, setting a more plaintive mood for the closing section that follows the diminutive version of the pizzicato motive absent during the previous segment returns to accompany a morose horns phrase on descending chromatics in sustained tone against a sorrowful version of a fragment of a second theme in the flute extended by a solo violin. The tempo eases up and the music fades, moving into a bridge passage based upon repeated falling fourths, also used by Mahler to accomplish a transition during the finale of The first Symphony. Within a few measures, Mahler artfully changes key from D minor to G major, and consequently, the mood changes from melancholy to lighthearted gaiety. With the advent of this bright new key and the corresponding mood swing, the tempo becomes livelier as the A section returns. Modern notes that the tempo should be very moderate at first, but gradually become more agitated with each variation. cellos in their high register take up the falling fourths that ushered in this section, and fashion a variation of the first themes first part, played softly but gingerly against the underlying pizzicato motive, and a clarinet counter theme.

Violas and cellos take up this stream of consciousness variation until an oboe picks it up at a brisk pace and inverts the rising figure from the cello variation. Soon the strings create a variation of the theme’s second part against an inverted version of the falling forts, in woodwinds. All of this done without increasing the very soft, dynamic level. Within a few measures, clarinets and bassoons take up the wind interlude from the previous section. violins still toy with the two-note figure with which this section first began, now inverted and reconfigured melodically and rhythmically is two-note figure becomes a playful accompaniment to the thematic variations that follow, setting an elongated version of its original against its inversion played in double time.

Strings increasingly indulge in contrapuntal figuration in a free variation of the first theme. As the tempo increases cellos expand upon their version of the theme’s first part as a lead-in to yet another inverted permutation of the longing motive from the second part of the theme. Continuous string figuration enhances the lively frolicking mood, after the music’s effervescent energy begins to wane, and the string figuration ends. A vague reminder of the leaps into the abyss that appeared during the climax of the B section intrudes into the interplay of the thematic material, soon becoming more fragmented, until only the horn can be heard on the motive of wall of falling minor second, an oboe adds a note of sorrow on an elongated variation of the plaintive melody that opened the first v section, anticipating its return. As the symphony is home key returns, it shifts immediately to the minor in Phrygian mode to sustain the melancholy mood. The oboe’s plaint is now heard on the English horn, before being restated once again by the oboe, while a horn sadly in tones a new counter theme that inverts the second part of the oboe theme. What is missing here and throughout the B sections reprise is the snappy version of the pizzicato motive, cellos in their high register rework the second part of the oboes plaintive tune with various permutations of the motive of longing would seems to heave a sigh more emphatically, with each sequentially rising repetition.

After violins and violas drag the longing motive downward, the atmosphere suddenly darkens, and the tonality reverts to a stark C sharp minor, the same melodramatic phrase and violins that stirred the music out of the doldrums during the previous B section. Now wells up from the depths and violins and overflows with emotion, as it encounters the first part of the theme in clarinets and horns. This time, the section reaches a climax more quickly than before, and with greater tragic force on a super octave plunge into the abyss in the violins that sends chills down the spine. Winds cry out in pain on a segment of the first part of the oboes said tune against a variation of its second part, presented as a counter theme in low strings. A solo trumpet takes up this variation, in a manner reminiscent of the main theme of the discarded Blumine movement from the First Symphony, impassioned violins takeover with an effusive outpouring of the second part of the oboes plaintive tune. Now in C sharp minor, as in the previous B section, the violins emote on the longing motive, and the mood lightens up momentarily. As the music becomes more passionate and presses forward with greater urgency, the intervals of the falling figure that ends the longing motive are stretched as it climbs ever higher, ending its ascent with yet another tragic climax on overlapping plunges to the depths that at least temporarily shattered longings hope for heavenly bliss. Woodwinds cry out forcefully at the height of the climax, on a phrase that anticipates part of the main theme of the six symphonies finale with which this dramatic movement shares more than just a thematic fragment.

After one last lament movingly expressed in the cellos on a variation of the horns counter theme that began the B sections reprise. The music recovers its composure quickly, emphasizing arising second, thereby inverting the second part of the B sections principle theme. Strings gradually soften, the temple slackens and the tonality wanders from a major to a consoling F sharp major that immediately reverts to the minor. Within only a few measures, Mahler executes one of his most brilliant, seamless transitions, as he artfully modulates to the home key for the reprise of the A section.

A series of five variations on both parts of the first theme follows in a tiered tempo structure, in which three increasingly faster Allegro sections are surrounded by mmm Dante is the first variation and I’m Dante establishes a somewhat lighter wistful mood with a simple treatment of the first part of the A sections principle theme, played by a chamber group of mid-range strings with clarinet harmonic support. After a long absence, the pizzicato bass motive returns to accompany this variation, only to disappear yet again during the variations that follow.

Shifting from duple to triple meter at the first variation conclusion, the underlying pizzicato motive seems to skip a beat. anticipating the livelier Allegro is that follow? The music seems to glide ever so gently into the next variation.
With his second variation, the tempo becomes slightly brisker and alligretto Mahler wish to emphasize the unexpected change of mood by the request that it begins suddenly, the first variation running directly into the second. Elements from both parts of the first theme form the basic musical material for this scherzo like variation, its meter changing to three eighths, from three fourths, in keeping with the increase in rhythmic motion. The second variation is also more contrapuntal than the first focusing on 16th note figuration and violins against counter rhythms in the rest of the strings. Clarinets are the only wins to be heard thus far in the tiered series of variations, decorating this one with trilled falling seconds that recall the second movement. Despite the second variations frolicsome character, it begins quietly, continuing the subdued dynamic level of the first variation. hesitant at first, the second variation gradually becomes more assertive, until it suddenly softens and remains rather reserved during the rest of the variation.

Even the impassioned version of the B sections counter theme first heard on the trumpet earlier, and then played passionately by violins, is made over into a frivolous violin tune, that appears to mark the theme on which it is based. Gradually, the entire orchestra enters, taking part in this spirited frolic.

Sliding scale lands on the beginning of the next variation, not giving the music a chance to catch its breath. Back in G major, the fourth variation starts in a much faster tempo. Again, without any preparation, staccato strings, piccolo and flutes dash off a flurry of 16th notes, akin to the passage that ended the first part of the A sections first theme, this 16th note figuration is wrapped around a variation of the second part of that theme in the rest of the woodwinds and lower strings, is wildly raising variation quickly builds to a climax, gushing over with unbounded joy. At a tight, a cymbal crash seems to dash the music against a stone wall as it ends abruptly like the proceeding variations on a falling 16th note figure and explosive crash seems to clear the air as the tempo suddenly reverts back to Andante the tempo the first variation.

As we just heard out of the orchestral din of the proceeding climax, four horns emerge to calm things down. They tenderly play a melody based upon an inverted version of the motive of longing, taken from the second part of the B sections theme, forming a five measure bridge passage to the fifth and final variation in the temple that opened the movement. We always gently sing a lyrical variation of the second part of the A sections principal theme, bathed in the gorgeous violin harmonies that grace the themes first part, strings combined to create a passage of heavenly beauty that anticipates the atmosphere of the finale. Basis begins by doubling the violin harmonies in anticipation of the chorale refrain of the last movement. A quartet of horns and bassoons in melting thirds, briefly extend the first part of the A sections theme strings follow with a version of the longing motive that relates to the first movements main theme, and foreshadows the principal theme of The Fifth Symphony is adagietto movement in luscious thirds horns and violas softly intone the resurrection theme from the second symphonies finale previously heard on the bassoon as a variant of the second part of the A sections first theme. As horns ascend on this motive, they’d stop just short of a full cadence. As hushed sustained string harmonies fill the air. The code data that follows is composed of sustained chords. Based upon the opening two notes of the themes first part, echoing between woodwinds and the high string was against the pizza cutter motive and low string. The music rests on a suspended G major chord without the tonic, over which the pizzicato motive slowly begins to descend.

On the be natural of the first sustained chord that ended the passage we just heard, strings and flutes suddenly wake us from our dream of heavenly serenity with a forceful entrance and leap upward to a high G sharp on an upbeat and dotted rhythm that is cut short by a breath pause. This upbeat then falls into a glorious orchestral explosion of E major with swirling string arpeggiation and harp glissandos that sound like the introduction to a Strauss wall. The tempo quickens with this sudden flood of orchestral sound, piercing through the deluge of string and harp, arpeggios, and powerful wind chords. trumpets Herald a bright new day with a demonstrative call that rises by a sixth and is immediately bombarded by a timpani roll. It is as if the sky has opened up. Recalling the powerful climaxes in slow movements of Bruckner’s late symphonies. Now a glimpse of the child’s celestial dream city is revealed. At the height of this orchestral outburst, the faster version of the pizzicato motive is pounded out mightily on the timpani, reinforcing the summons to heaven, as the dotted rhythmic upbeat with which this segment began, is now pronounced majestically by the horns. As they expound upon this assertive, upbeat figure, the horns refashion it, as if by magic into the opening notes of the finales main theme, a wonderfully prophetic vision of the heavenly life portrayed in the finale against repetitions of this dotted rhythmic figure in horns, trumpets resound on a Wagnerian turn that recalls their introduction to their Kleiner Apel from the first movement, as this stirring passage concludes, the falling second from the first part of the A sections principal theme returns punctuated by fragments of the pizzicato motive in timpani and bass she’s on repetitions of a falling fourth.

This grandiose vision of heaven now fades, and the music calms down as we reach the closing code. As we just heard, the falling seconds of the A sections first theme, played on bassoons and horns, serve to usher in the violins tender utterance of an inverted version of the motive of longing. A feeling of wistful serenity permeates the atmosphere. each repetition of longing climbs higher, swept to its high point on a gorgeous glissando that leads into a major Mahler’s heavenly key. We sense that we have reached our goal, at last, sustained chords on an open fifth and flutes and low strings, and a delicate ascending harp arpeggio accompanies a pentatonic version of the longing motive. In second violins and violas that anticipates does leave on the aerator. As the temple slackens, the home key G major is reinstated, a hush harsh once again descends over the music, on sustained chords in the strings. The pace gradually slows down, and out of the whisper of sustained string harmonies, comes a falling phrase in the second violins, anticipating the closing movement of one of Mahler’s most beautiful songs has been developed a bond in common after the last falling second of this phrase, harps and bass strings quietly play the pentatonic variant of the longing motive, accompanied by soft sustained chords and woodwinds and strings. An augmented version of that motive leads to a half cadence on a suspended dominant chord, and harmonically logical leading to the finale, which will also begin in G major.
Thus, the segue from the end of the third to the beginning of the Fourth Movement is a perfect cadence. A warm glow and serene calm permeate the closing measures, setting the stage for the heavenly scene that follows.

By Lew Smoley

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