Listening Guide – Movement 4: “Urlicht”. Sehr feierlich, aber schlicht


Mahler inserted early, one of the original wonder horn songs, as both a brief Intermezzo between the scherzo in the finale and a vehicle by which to introduce the voice into the symphony, it can be compared with the old Freud of the bass solo Beethoven used to introduce the voice in his Ninth Symphony, you know, orlick, the singer’s symbol faith, conveys a message of eternal redemption that is achieved in the closing moments of the finale, Mahler directs that the altos soloists sing with the tone and vocal expression of a child who thinks she is in heaven having come through the torture was questions of the first movement and the fearful apprehensions that intercede in the third, we are now ready to experience Mahler’s spiritual message of universal redemption.

The contrast between bitter irony and dreadful prophetic vision in the scherzo, and the simple naive expression of faith all week is nearly as pronounced as that between the awesome power of the first movement and the gentle lyricism of the second. Yet unlike the long hiatus smaller imposes between the first two movements he directs that only proceed after the scherzo movement without pause, Mahler wrote the song really long before the other movements after Toton fire and most of the other wonder horn leader were completed, yet it is a perfect fit in the context of this Symphony, the chorale-like music that accompanies the soloist becomes source material for the finale purity and simplicity of vocal expression here comes closer to Brookner than anything else Mahler ever wrote.

Mahler was also influenced by Bruckner’s use of diatonic chorale-like harmonies, and blocks of orchestral sound, which are characteristic of this movement. Structurally, form follows function here, as it does in the finale, although a tripartite construction is apparent, it is the dramatic essence of the text and the musical ideas drawn from it that determined the ground plan of this brief movement. The middle section contains several chromatic modulations that heighten the underlying tension when the text relates to the angel’s challenge to the singer’s simple, but undaunted faith, while the message conveyed his belief in an ultimate redemption, there is also a subliminal message of overcoming adversity, even if self-imposed, a principle that will become increasingly important in Mahler’s later symphonies.

The hymnal quality of the opening measures not only imbues the movement with an austere church-like atmosphere but also sets the tone for the remainder of the symphony, first words or rashon wrote, are held out as if the beginning of choral him and arch-like trumpet chorale follows as an extension of the rising three-note figure sung to these words, the stepwise ascending figure with which the chorale begins, anticipates the resurrection theme of the finale, and looks back to its Forerunner in the first movement.
When the alto soloist re-enters with the second and third lines of the text, the thematic construction changes from diatonic to chromatic to reflect the passion of the words, the diatonic melody is re-established for the following two lines, which envision redemption from the suffering alluded to in the previous lines.

Notice that the alto sings the words, gay liebhard Mitch in Himmelstein to virtually the same chorale melody, played by the trumpets at the beginning.
In typical Wagnerian style, the vocal line ends not on a cadence, but in midstream, the cadence being supplied by the first oboe on a Wagnerian turn, Mahler will use this turn figure Either to convey a sense of heavenly serenity, as in the third symphonies the first movement or mocking irony, as in the flat clarinet solo toward the close of the central section of the Ninth Symphony skirts.

The middle section opens in B flat minor with a new childlike tune that could well have been a nursery rhyme heard by Mahler as a child, it is played by the clarinets against the simple melody sung in narrative style for the alto solo, the solo violin plays a more extended melody that sounds like getting another nursery to reminiscent of the Austrian yodeling tunes in the second movement of the First Symphony as the tonality modulates to a major, the theme with which the section began becomes rhythmic underpinning for the nursery tune, the alto sings a variation of the violins nursery tune, which is again cut off before the tune finishes after the tonality reverts to the minor, the nursery tune closes on a repeated falling minor third, is falling third will be heard as an important motive in the natural movement of the third symphony.

In the concluding section, a progressive series of chromatic rising chords enhances the passion with which the singer rejects the angel’s command, once again the vocal line becomes more chromatic, string Tremeloes and tension. At the climax of the movement, during which the singer vows her unshakeable faith in God’s promise of redemption, the vocal line rises in a sequence of ascending figures.

These relate to a phrase sung to the second and third lines of text in the first section, here they are sung with heightened emotion, as the vocal line reaches heaven word for the light that will illuminate existence to the words he’s been on God wouldn’t view Vader’s got.

Mahler will not offer a more fervent prayer for salvation again, until the wordless finale of the Ninth Symphony, this moving supplication closes as the tempo recedes, and the alto sings a variation of the vocal line that closes the first section.

Again, it ends before reaching a cadence, as if suspended in a state of grace, here are the strings provide the cadence with which this brief movement ends.

This concluding phrase will return in the finale

By Lew Smoley

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