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Temporal Fusion and Climax in the Symphonies of Mahler

Author(s): Richard A. Kaplan

Source: The Journal of Musicology, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Spring, 1996), pp. 213-232
Published by: University of California Press
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Journal of Musicology.

Temporal Fusion and

Climax in the Symphonies
of Mahler*

full generation has passed since the initial

burgeoning of interest in Mahler's music among serious musicians and

listeners. In this time, Mahler's symphonic oeuvre-a body of work that
had been the exclusive artistic preserve of a small community of devotees and advocates-has firmly taken its place in the standard orchestral repertoire. A case in point is the Sixth Symphony, which waited an
astonishing forty-three years for its American premiere, and even
longer for its first recording,' but which by 1992-some forty-five years
later-had received over three dozen commercial recordings, no fewer
than eight of them by American orchestras.2
Mahler's music has likewise been embraced by growing numbers of
musical scholars; while this acceptance has inevitably been somewhat
slower, the parallel between the two trends is unmistakable. An earlier
generation of writers on Mahler's music-Diether, Cooke, and Cardus,
for example, to name three central figures in the "Mahler movement"
of the 195os and '6os-seemed to consider their mission largely one of
advocacy; they may be regarded, perhaps, as the literary counterparts to
such early champions as Walter, Klemperer, and Mitropoulos. The
musical world owes these advocates an incalculable debt of gratitude;
it is fair to say, however, that such efforts now are scarcely necessary.
Recent literature suggests, both in its quantity and in its content, that
we have moved beyond this stage of advocacy to a point at which
Mahler's symphonies have begun to be the objects of legitimate analytical examination.
VolumeXIV * Number 2 * Spring 1996
The Journalof Musicology? 1996 by the Regentsof the Universityof California
*An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Annual
Meeting of the American Musicological Society, Austin, 1989.
I These took place in 1947 and ca. 1952, respectively, with the PhilharmonicSymphony of New York conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos and the Vienna Philharmonic
conducted by F. Charles Adler. The symphony was completed in 1904.
Peter Ffil6p, ed., Mahler Discography (New York, 1995), 1o9-16.





Any serious student of Mahler's music can only be gratified by this

turn of events; however, the evidence of many recent Mahler analyses
suggests that we have not yet developed techniques sufficiently powerful and subtle to help us come to terms with the music's own power and
subtlety. Rather, these analyses tend to be characterized by too great a
reliance on one or another standard analytical paradigm. It is, to be
sure, a reasonable enough strategy, when confronted with a new type of
analytical problem, to see whether any of the tools already in one's
workshop will prove useful. But these fascinating and extraordinary
compositions, which confounded earlier generations of musicians precisely becausethey seem to violate many of the "rules" formulated for
other, more conventional pieces, have continued to prove highly resistant to the application of such paradigms, whether these paradigms be
those of standard form designations, of the Schenkerian model, -or of
the apparatus of literary criticism.3 Assigning labels such as "rondosonata" and "double variation," demonstrating conformance-however
idiosyncratic-to Schenkerian Ursdtze,and inferring the operation of
various "narrative"strategies all have the potential to provide important
analytical insights; and, in fact, many of the analyses cited here contribute significantly to the body of knowledge about some aspect of
Mahler's art. But these approaches also carry the risks of trivializing or
suppressing, in the name of conformance to a paradigm, precisely
those characteristics that make these pieces interesting, unique, and
coherent; they have, in short, failed to convey adequately a sense of the
way these pieces work. Fortunately, these inadequacies have not hindered the enormous growth in scholarly interest in Mahler's music;
however, rather like the blind men and the elephant, we simply have
found ourselves unable to apprehend these unprecedentedly huge,
uncannily heterogeneous objects as coherent musical totalities.
In the view of the present study, the difficulty arises principally from
what one might call the problem of integration.In speaking of this problem, I refer precisely to those characteristics that so distinguish Mahler's
music from that of the nineteenth-century symphonic mainstream, and

3 For
applications of each of these approaches, see, in the first case, Edward W.
Murphy, "Sonata-rondo Form in the Symphonies of Gustav Mahler," The Music Review
XXXVI (1975), 54-62, and Murphy, "Unusual Forms in Mahler's Fifth Symphony," The

Music Review XLVII (1986/87),


in the second case, Peter Bergquist, "The First

Movement of Mahler's Tenth Symphony: An Analysis and an Examination of the

Sketches," The Music ForumV (1980), 335-94, and Allen Forte, "Middleground Motives
in the Adagietto of Mahler's Fifth Symphony,"
Music VIII (1984),
153-63; and, in the third case, David B. Greene, Mahler: Consciousnessand Temporality
(New York, 1964); Vera Micznik, "Mahler and 'the Power of Genre'," Journal of Musicology XII/2



and Martin Scherzinger,

"The Finale of Mahler's

Symphony: A Deconstructive Reading," Music Analysis XIV (1995), 69-88.



that so confounded early listeners: to wit, in a repertoire whose most

notorious characteristics concern matters of scale-such matters as
length, size of performing forces, and what may be generally described
as an extravagance of utterance-the challenge to the listener is compounded by Mahler's use, within a single symphony consisting of as
many as six movements, of an extraordinary variety of musical languages
and references. In an influential paper linking Mahler's compositional
practices with those of Charles Ives, Robert Morgan has addressed
directly the issues of formal disjunction and out-of-context quotation in
Mahler's music;4 it is not his purpose, however, to attempt to show how
Mahler-or, for that matter, Ives-achieves structural integration despite
such disjunction.5 Our problem, then, is that of attempting to discern
coherent musical processes or relationships in the large dimension of
the piece as a whole.6
One such process concerns the sense of climax, which plays a central role in Mahler's strategies for achieving structural integration, both
within a single movement and across an entire symphony. A case in
point is the Adagio of the Tenth Symphony; I have argued elsewhere
that the climactic section (mm. 194-212)
serves as the culmination of
multiple compositional processes that unfold throughout the movement, and that the culminating nine-note chord is best understood as a
combination of the dominants of F-sharp and B-flat-the two keys that
are opposed, juxtaposed, and combined throughout the movement,
and on all structural levels. I referred to this culmination as a fusion of
the two tonalities.7 The significance of this climax for the symphony as
a whole is underscored by its recurrence at m. 275 of the Finale (based,
for practical purposes, on Deryck Cooke's performing version).
4 Robert P. Morgan, "Ives and Mahler: Mutual Responses at the End of an Era,"
i9th-Century Music I (1978),


Are the two mutually exclusive? Morgan implies that they are ("Ives and Mahler,"
78). I will argue that they need not be.
6 It should
hardly be necessary at this point to emphasize that the problem is ours,
not Mahler's. Criticisms-and dismissals-of Mahler have always been founded on indictments of his aesthetic, not of his technique; regarding the latter, see the enthusiastic
essay on the Fourth Symphony in Donald Francis Tovey, Essays in Musical Analysis,vol. 6
(London, 1939), 73-83. Leonard Bernstein, "Mahler: His Time Has Come" (1967),
reprinted in Wordson Musicfrom Addison to Barzun, ed. Jack Sullivan (Athens, OH, 199o),
267-72, remains perhaps the most eloquent and passionate defense and analysis of
Mahler's aesthetic.
7 Richard A. Kaplan, "The Interaction of Diatonic Collections in the Adagio of
Mahler's Tenth Symphony," In TheoryOnlyVI (1981), 29-39. Bergquist, "The First Movement of Mahler's Tenth Symphony," offers a large-scale Schenkerian treatment from
which a sense of the scope and function of this climax is largely absent. For further comments on Bergquist's analysis see V. Kofi Agawu, "Tonal Strategy in the First Movement
of Mahler's Tenth Symphony," z9th-CenturyMusic IX (1986), 222-33 and, with specific
reference to the climax, Agawu, "Structural 'Highpoints' in Schumann's Dichterliebe,"

Music Analysis III (1984),






The phenomenon to be explored here can be regarded as another

form of fusion, this one temporal rather than tonal in nature, but likewise central to the sense of climax in Mahler's symphonies. Let us
begin by considering the role of two forms of cyclic recurrence in the
symphonies: reminiscence and foreshadowing.8 Each of these phenomena has its own functions, and the difference between the two is critical.
This difference can be described as one of context, and may be
illustrated most clearly by a pair of examples drawn from an explicitly
dramatic musical source. Reminiscence entails the return, in the latter
portion of a piece, of material established in an earlier context, in
order to draw a specific dramatic relationship or make a certain rhetorical point. An example that comes to mind is the passage in Act III of
in which Hans Sachs christens the new "mode" of MasDie Meistersinger,9
has created: the music first refers to Kothner's
the contest rules from Act I (a fine piece of irony, given
Walther's disdain of such rules, and his ultimate transcendence of
them), and then refers to the opening chorale during whose singing we
first meet Walther and Eva. By recalling these two passages, Wagner
underscores the significance and solemnity of the Act III episode, and
encourages us to interpret it in light of these Act I contexts.
Compare with this the countermelody that accompanies the third
stanza of Sachs's cobbling song in Act II. This melody, which of course
becomes the opening music of Act III and in turn the main theme of
the Wahn-Monolog,only later attains its full meaning; at its occurrence
in Act II, it is out of context, or better, contextiess.In other words, we
would not regard the Wahn-Monologas a reminiscence of the cobbling
song, for the Act III occurrences are the true context of this music;
rather, the countermelody in the cobbling song is a foreshadowingof the
later passages.
This raises a significant dilemma, since time is, strictly speaking, unidirectional. If the context of the countermelody in Act II does not yet
exist, or at any rate is not yet divulged, then how are we to understand
its meaning? How, indeed, are we to know what-or, for that matter,
that anything-is being foreshadowed? The perceptive listener may note
8 Warren Storey Smith, "The Cyclic Principle in Musical Design, and the Use of It
by Bruckner and Mahler," Chordand Discord11/9 (196o), 3-32, lists many cyclic recurrences of themes and prominent motives in Mahler's symphonies. Smith emphasizes the
unifying role of these recurrences; while not denying the importance of this role (it figures prominently in my third analytical illustration, for example), I concentrate here on
the referential role, as described below.
9 The choice of illustration is not an idle one; Mahler conducted Die Meistersinger
frequently, beginning with a triumphant production in Prague in 1885, and his devotion
to this opera is well documented. See Henry-Louis de La Grange, Mahler,vol. 1 (Garden
City, N.Y., 1973),


and 533.


that the countermelody sounds distinctly out of musical context, in part

because it appears only in the final stanza, in part because it is fragmentary-simply disappearing, rather than ending. And, of course, a listener
more than once, or who has access to the
who has heard Die Meistersinger
score and is therefore able in a sense to defeat this temporal unidirectionality, will know in advance and interpret accordingly. There is also a
sense, however, in which each experience of a work, no matter how
familiar, creates its own reality, its own sense of time.1o And, in this
sense, the countermelody to Sachs's cobbling song is profoundly, if subtly, meaningful: by casting a poignant shadow-a foreshadow, if one may
be permitted-over the clever, humorous Sachs of the Act II encounter
with Beckmesser, it forces us ultimately to reconsider this Sachs in light
of the more deeply philosophical figure that emerges fully in Act III.
There is an important difference, then, between the effect of reminiscence and that of foreshadowing; it is a difference that Mahler exploits with far-reaching consequences. Reminiscence in some of his
symphonies creates or enhances an end-climax, as, for example, in the
Eighth Symphony, the concluding apotheosis of the opening theme;"
or, in the Sixth, the return of the first movement's drum cadence to
bring the tragedy full circle. Reminiscence in the finale of the First
Symphony plays a subtler and more pervasive role: not only is the subject of the triumphal coda a transformation of the opening figure from
the first movement's introduction, but the second period of the finale's
main theme (mm. 63 ff.) paraphrases the F-minor episode from the
development section of the first movement (mm. 305 ff.), even retaining its F-minor tonality.12 This finale also features two episodes-the
second quite extensive-built on cyclic recurrences of material from
the first two movements of the original five-movement version (that is,
the first movement and the suppressed Bluminemovement). The first of
these reminiscences occurs at mm. 205-237, within a passage that
1o See Edward T. Cone's remarks in this connection in Musical Formand Musical Performance (New York, 1968), 54-56, and in "On Derivation: Syntax and Rhetoric," Music
AnalysisVI (1987), 237-55. Whether in such cases we hear a true "reversed temporality"
or (as Cone considers more likely) a compositional derivation from an already existing
melody is for Cone a matter of interpreting according to either programmatic or purely
musical considerations. As for the Meistersingertheme, its completeness of gesture in the
Act III opening leads one to hear a sort of bi-directional derivation, in which this passage
is the source of both the Act II countermelody and the monologue.
1 Similarly, the main theme of the first movement of the Seventh is recalled in the
major mode at the end of the finale.
12 The finale
begins, and for much of its length remains, in F minor; the passage
that effects the final shift to D major-the principal key of the symphony-in mm.
580-630 is almost identical to the corresponding passage in the first movement (mm.
311-357), which functions as the retransition. Apart from any programmatic implications that this cyclical recurrence may carry, this referential use of tonality helps to
explain the anomalous tonal structure of the finale.





begins at m. 175 and corresponds to the second theme-group of a

sonata structure.'3 The second episode occurs at mm. 428-532 and features more explicit thematic and motivic references. These passages are
representative of what might be called the "wistful" type of reminiscence, as contrasted with the climactic recurrences cited above. Even
before the Blumine movement was performed and published, one was
aware of their reminiscent character: notice, for example, the contrast
in mood with the surrounding Sturmund Drang, the changes in tempo
and dynamics, and the extensive use of pedal points. The rediscovery of
Blumine, among other things, revealed the context for much of the
reminiscence; whether or not this movement belongs in the symphony's rhetoricalplan, it is an integral element of its cyclicalplan, and
thus represents an indispensable tool in explicating the problematic
structure of the finale.14
These examples and others suggest that reminiscence was a central
element in Mahler's symphonic thought. Even so, they break relatively
little new compositional ground, representing rather a set of fairly standard nineteenth-century symphonic gestures. One need look no further than the symphonies of Beethoven and Brahms-or for that matter, of Bruckner, Dvorik, and Tchaikovsky-to find precedents for
these types of reminiscence.
Mahler's uses of foreshadowing, however, are both novel and farreaching in their formal and dramatic implications. Each of the following analytical discussions will focus on an individual movement-in
fact, on a specific passage within a movement-to show how Mahler's
use of foreshadowing, especially in combination with the use of reminiscence, provides in these passages a touchstone for our understanding of the entire symphony.
Symphony No. 2, Third Movement
We begin by considering the climax of this movement, the passage to which Mahler referred in his later-suppressed program as a "cryof desperation."5s Table 1 offers a broad formal overview
of the movement. This table, like any such chart, is not intended to convey all of the complex relationships between sections and the dynamic
'3 Note that the transitional
passage beginning at m. 238 is also based on the opening motive of the first movement, while its bass line (cellos, divided) prefigures an important motive of the first movement of the Second Symphony.
14 I explore these and other aspects of this movement's musical logic in greater
detail in "The Finale of Mahler's First: Cyclicism, Narrative, and the 'Footsteps of the
Giant'," paper read at the American Musicological Society Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh,
November 1992.
'5 A reproduction of Mahler's handwritten program and a full English translation
appear in Donald Mitchell, Gustav Mahler:The WunderhornYears(Berkeley and Los Ange-

les, 1975),



Mahler, Symphony No. 2, III




B (F)
A' (c)

Ostinato Bridge

I (D)


Ostinato Bridge resumes

Interruption II (E)
Trio (E)
Ostinato Bridge as retrans.


Interruption III (C)

musical processes that characterize the movement; rather, it is provided

to establish the formal context of the events to be discussed below.
The Scherzo proper is a three-part structure, in contrast to the
standard binary model; this is doubtless a carryover from its Wunderhorn
origin.'6 The section that I label A' is, however, considerably condensed, and serves a sort of closing function. I call the music that follows this an "ostinato bridge" rather than a trio because of its static
nature, exemplified by the insistent motivic repetitions and the pedal
points; it seems not so much to represent a new section as to await the
arrival of a new section.'7 It may seem paradoxical to call that which follows such a passage an interruption, but this seems the most apt
description of the D-major passage beginning at m. 212, because of the
suddenness of its contrast-tonal, dynamic, textural-with the bridge.
Recall, too, that the interruption breaks in on the fourth measure of a
16 As is well
known, the Scherzo is a paraphrase of Mahler's song, "Des Antonius von
Padua Fischpredigt," from Des Knaben Wunderhorn.See Mitchell, The WunderhornYears,
136-38 and 171-76 for details on the relationship and chronology of the two works.
17 La Grange, by contrast, labels the entire section from mm. 190-347 "Trio," and
calls the E-major trumpet solo in m. 272 an interruption (Mahler,vol. 1, 789). There has
in fact been much disagreement concerning the actual location of the trio; see Claudia
Maurer Zenck, "Technik und Gehalt im Scherzo von Mahlers Zweiter Symphonie,"
Melos/NeueZeitschriftfiirMusik II (1976), 179-85.





four-bar pattern-a measure too early, so to speak-thus providing a

rhythmic unexpectedness as well.18
The second interruption is in E major, a rise of another whole step.
This tightening-up of intensity through large-scale rising sequence
brings to mind another example from Wagner, that of Tannhdiuser's
song to Venus, whose three stanzas are respectively in D-flat, D, and Eflat major; or, closer to home, the thrice-repeated refrain "Dunkel ist
das Leben, ist der Tod" in the first movement of Das Lied von derErde,
which occurs in G, A-flat, and A minor.'9 Mahler deflects the tension in
the present movement, however, by using the second interruption to
usher in the trio, leaving us in the position, one might say, of waiting
for the third shoe to drop.
The third interruption occurs-and I intend no tautology here-at
an unexpected moment; the trio having run its course, and the first two
parts of the scherzo having been reprised, one might predict a thoroughly conventional conclusion to the da capo. In fact, as Table 1
shows, the A' music does eventually recur, and when it recurs it doesfulfill its closing function. So what are we to make of this third interruption? This passage-and it is interesting to observe that the interruptions,
like other signal events in Mahler such as the refrain from Das Lied and
the hammer blows in the Finale of the Sixth, come in threes-is clearly
an event of a different order from the first two. Its position in the movement's formal scheme aside, this passage has a ferocity lacking in its
two predecessors; note the open fifths with which it begins, the dynamic (the only full orchestral triple-forte in the movement), and the
extraordinary orchestration, including the use of extreme registers and
two tam-tams. This interruption leads to a climax of cataclysmic proportions (I use this adjective advisedly, in light of the programmatic
There are three critical points to be made concerning this climax.
The first is that nothing ik the movement, or for that matter in the symphony to this point, has prepared the listener for a cataclysm on this
scale. The second is that, following immediately on the unleashing of
the cataclysm, materials from earlier in the movement are drawn into
the texture. The third, of course, is that this same music recurs twice in
the fifth and final movement of the symphony: at its opening, and
immediately preceding dergrosseAppel,where Mahler's program explicitly relates it to the cry of souls approaching the last judgment.
18 The sudden tonal shift a major second upward is a device Mahler had already
used to great effect in the finale of the First Symphony, m. 375. Interestingly, the shift in
this passage is also from C major to D major.
'9 Another passage that uses the same tonal strategy is the aria of the Italian tenor
in Act I of Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier,whose two stanzas are in D-flat and D major. Since
the aria is-literally-interrupted,
we have no way of knowing whether the tenor was also
planning a third stanza in E-flat.


The first of these three points is, I believe, self-evident. As for the
second, note the fortissimo return of the ostinato bridge subject in m.
481 (see Example 1), and two measures later, of the timpani strokes
that opened the movement. The drawing of these elements into this climax is to these ears the most frankly terrifying moment in the entire
piece-an illustration of the power of the return of familiar material in
a new context. In the measures that immediately follow, two elements
are introduced that are new, but that will figure prominently in the last
movement: the repeated neighbor figure 6-5 at m. 489, and the trumpet call at m. 497.
Thus, this climactic passage features both reminiscence-in the
return of the bridge and the timpani strokes-and foreshadowing of
fifth-movement material. This juxtaposition, or better, superimposition,
creates a focal point for the entire work: a temporal fusion in which the
past and the future are merged into a transcendent present.
The third critical point is the return of the cataclysm in the last
movement, where its meaning is made much more clear, both musically and programmatically. This, together with the fact that the listener
confronts the third-movement cataclysm in a sense unprepared, produces in this passage the effect of a large-scale foreshadowing of the
finale; for the finale is in fact the true context of this passage. And this,
more than any other factor, is what gives the passage so profound an
effect at its first occurrence.
Symphony No. 4, Third Movement
Let us next consider the luminous triple-forte outburst that occurs near the end of this movement

(m. 315 ff.). The effect

of this outburst derives in part from its dynamic contrast with the preceding triple-piano passage, in part from the brilliance of its orchestration, and in part from its abrupt tonal shift from G major to E major. But
the keystones to understanding this passage as a climax are its thematic
and motivic references, shown on the score extract given in Example 2.20
Notice that the first two of these references-those in the timpani and in
the trumpets at m. 318-are to motives that are prominent throughout
the third movement; such references play a normative role in climactic
passages on the level of the individual movement. But in the four
measures that follow, there occur references to first-movement material-in the horns and trumpets, as indicated-and, most significantly, to the opening theme of the fourth movement, also in the horns.
Thus, this climax, like that of the Scherzo of the Second Symphony, combines reminiscence and foreshadowing, fusing in a single

The example shows only the brass and timpani parts.





EXAMPLE 1. Mahler, Symphony No. 2, III; mm. 481-501.

W.W., Hr., V1.





Vc., Cb.







': J J t t-


; [


' l
__ _



Tr., Hr.

col 8 p/pp



musical gesture materials from three of the four movements. Note also
that the tonal shift from G major to E major not only prefigures the
tonal motion of the Finale, but replicates locally the overall tonal structure of the symphony as a whole. Taken together, the tonal and motivic
structures thus create a focal point for the entire symphony.
Symphony No. 5, Fifth Movement
Each of the outer parts of this symphony culminates, near the end, in a triumphant chorale-like passage for brass




EXAMPLE 2. Mahler, Symphony No. 4, III; mm. 318-325Pesante



1 r


in F






2 Schldigeln


Pp f







The relationship

of these two passages-and

the role of

the finale chorale in particular-has troubled any number of students of

Mahler's music, among them Kennedy, who considers the recall of the
chorale contrived,22 and Greene, who finds the lumi-


nosity of the earlier chorale far more glorious and brilliant.23 Barford
goes further, calling the entire Rondo "feeble" and, more, "a windy,
uninspired stretch of note-spinning literally [sic] scraping the barrel in
search of music."24 I believe that these authors have missed the point,

however, and that Cone is exactly right when he asserts that the final
chorale does in fact provide the requisite climax to the entire work.25
Determining that this is so is largely a matter of hearing beyond
local disjunctions and discerning the histories of three distinct musical
processes as they unfold throughout the symphony. The first and most
transparent of these processes consists in the transformation of the
chorale itself, as illustrated in Example 3. The first occurrence of the
chorale in any form comes at m. 316 of the second movement, or
slightly past the movement's midpoint (Example 3a). This passage is in
A major, however, the parallel major of the key of the movement and
the dominant of D, the key that eventually emerges as the symphony's
tonal goal. Further, it is abortive, being abandoned after only 61/2measures with the abrupt return of the movement's opening material;
Mahler takes the unusual step here of drawing a dotted bar line in midmeasure in the score to mark the Tempoprimosubito.26
The next chorale-the one to which Kennedy and Greene ascribe
primacy-occurs near the end of the same movement, beginning at m.
464 (Example 3b); the opening of the fifth-movement chorale is given
in Example 3c.

Mahlerdividesthe five movementsof the symphonyinto three parts,as follows:

1. Trauermarsch

3. Scherzo
4. Adagietto
5. Rondo-Finale.
22 MichaelKennedy,Mahler(London, 1974), 117.
23 Greene, Mahler,
119. Greene also saysthat the finale chorale is "ungeneratedby
its past in either the second or the fifth movement."Murphy("UnusualForms,"Io8-o9)
does not engage the issueat all, merelycataloguingtonal areasand thematicrecurrences;

in his analysis, the chorale (together with the coda) is designated as the final "A"in the

formalscheme ABACBCACBA.

Philip T. Barford, "Mahler: A Thematic Archetype," The Music Review XXI

(1960), 316. These remarksare tangentialto Barford'smain point, which is the illustration of a common melodic structureunderlyingmanyof Mahler'sthemes.
25 Cone, "OnDerivation,"249.

Mahler indicates another abrupt formal discontinuity in m. 266, where a strin-

gendois interruptedby the return of the first-movementfuneral march, by drawinga

dashed doublebar in mid-measure. These extraordinary notations testify to Mahler's sensitivity to the effect of such interruptions in his music.




Mahler, Symphony No. 5, II; mm. 316-322.






3b. Mahler, Symphony No. 5, II; mm. 464-473-



Mahler, Symphony No. 5, V; mm. 711-718.

There are many reasons why the second-movement chorale shouldn't

be the primary climax of the symphony, the most trivial of which is that
there are still three movements and some forty minutes to go. But there
are other, more substantive reasons for regarding the triumph represented here as incomplete.
While this chorale is in D major, unlike its fleeting predecessor, the
D major is not yet allowed to prevail, and the movement ends, as it
began, in A minor. Notice, further, that while Mahler takes care to
notate "Hihepunkt"in the score on the downbeat of m. 500 (Example
4a), this is followed almost immediately by a decrescendo and by the
reintroduction of minor-mode elements beginning in m. 516. Notice,
finally, that the ascendancy of D-major tonality is thwarted by the
deceptive cadence and again by the reassertion of the movement's
opening material, both in m. 520.27 As a result of Mahler's deliberate
placement of the climax at the very opening of the second subsection
of the chorale, the process of dissolution takes place over a twentymeasure span. The premature arrival of the H6hepunktthereby vitiates
its impact and undermines its conclusiveness.
Compare with this the chorale that begins at m. 711 of the Finale.
In its second subsection (i.e., from m. 731 on, corresponding to the
27 The harmony at m. 520
is not the enharmonically spelled "dominant minor
ninth" (presumably of E-flat) suggested in Carolyn Baxendale, "The Finale of Mahler's
Fifth Symphony: Long-range Musical Thought," Journal of the Royal Musical Association
CXII (1987), 263, but a common-tone diminished-seventh chord over b6 in the bass-the
standard bass tone for a deceptive cadence.



Mahler, Symphony No. 5, II; mm. 499-508.



Mahler, Symphony No. 5, V; mm. 731-737.


H6hepunktof the second-movement chorale), the melody of this passage

is identical in pitch-class structure to that of the earlier chorale (see
Examples 4a and 4b). But the differences are critical: the first four measures of the original are compressed into two, increasing forward drive;
and the a'-bi-a' of mm. 505 through 508 are transposed up an octave,
into the trumpet's most brilliant register. Further, there is no diminuendo until m. 736, and then only in the trumpets; in fact, Mahler writes
a new fortissimo in the heavy brass at the trumpet's b2, and calls for a
crescendo in the horns-which are already marked triple-forte at m.
731. It is clear, then, that the H6hepunktof this chorale-while not indicated explicitly, as it is in the second movement-arrives later, at m. 735
or 737. Finally, the cadence is approached with another crescendo and
remains in the major mode. And while this cadence may not be definitive-it leads rather to the Allegro moltocoda-it is authentic. So, the
chorale of the fifth movement "succeeds" (to use Cone's word) in ways
that that of the second movement "fails";by comparison, the H6hepunkt
of the second movement seems premature, and the triumph short-lived.
The second of the processes that contribute to the ultimate sense
of climax in this symphony is the emergence of the chorale from a seed
planted as early as the first movement. This seed is a motive that first
appears explicitly in m. 295, accompanying the second funeral-march
subject, as shown in Example 5a. The motive, hereafter designated
"motive A," features a large rising leap across a bar line-a seventh
in its first appearance, later usually an octave or a ninth-followed by
a stepwise descent.28 Once introduced, motive A quickly asserts its
In its ascending leap to an accented dissonance and its subsequent stepwise
descent, this motive-fundamentally an appoggiatura figure-bears a clear familial relation to Barford's archetype ("A Thematic Archetype," 297). Interestingly, while Barford
gives nine examples of passages in the Fifth Symphony that are derived from the archetype






Mahler, Symphony No. 5, I; mm. 295-298.





5b. Mahler, Symphony No. 5, I; mm.



Via., div.

L-- 3


prominence, not only in a continuing accompanimental role but as an

underlying structure in the theme of the following section (see the
bracketed and beamed pitch structures in Example 5b). This section
leads to the triple-forte climax of the movement (mm. 369 ff., Kiagend),
of which motive A also forms the melodic basis.
While the role of Motive A in the first movement is primarily
accompanimental, it becomes the Hauptmotifof the main theme of the
second, as shown in Example 6. Subsequently, in various guises, it
becomes either the basis of, or the accompaniment to, virtually every
new melodic formulation in the movement. While it would be impractical
the score
score will
tical to illustrate
illustrate all
all these
here, a perusal
these relationships
perusal of the
relationships here,

he proposes (Exx. 66-74: 304), he does not relate it explicitly to the motive under discussion here. This may be because the archetype features a multiple anacrusis, with a stepwise ascent preceding the leap. See also Parks Grant, "Mahler's Fifth Symphony," Chord
and Discord II/1o



where motive A is mentioned

as a cyclic element.


EXAMPLE 6. Mahler, Symphony No. 5, II; mm. 7-10.


7. Mahler, Symphony No. 5, III; mm. 1-6.

yield multiple examples: see mm. 32-35;

mm. 189-213,

where the sys-

tematic expansion of the leap from a sixth to a ninth provides the basis
for an extended episode for cellos alone; and m. 287, where motive A
becomes the Hauptmotifof what Cooke calls a '"jauntymarch."29
Moreover, each of the chorales is likewise initiated by this motivic
structure, as seen in Example 3; notice particularly the near identity in
pitch level of the opening of Example 3a and the third measure of
Example 6. The chorale near the end of the second movement, then,
grows organically out of materials that permeate the movement.
Motive A is hardly prominent in the third and fourth movements, at
least on the foreground level; its contour, however, is subtly embedded
in certain thematic materials of the Scherzo, notably its opening theme,
as suggested in Example 7.30 So, while the emergence of this motive is
central to the understanding of the second-movement chorales, it is not
ultimately sufficient to explain the emergence and transcendence of the
finale chorale.
This leads to consideration of the third of the compositional
processes that converge in this final chorale: that of the transformation
and apotheosis of fourth- and fifth-movement materials.3' This process
is pervasive in a way that likewise characterizes Mahler's other RondoFinale, the fifth movement of the Seventh Symphony, in which contrapuntal textures again predominate. It can be seen, for example, in the
Deryck Cooke, GustavMahler:An Introductionto his Music (Cambridge, 1980), 82.
Colin Matthews (Mahler at Work:Aspectsof
the CreativeProcess[New York & London, 1989], 62-63) points out that the first five notes
of the melody were added by Mahler to the fair copy, and that measure 3 (the tied dotted half-note b') was also new. Further, the clarinet and bassoon parts originally began
with the present measure 6; both motive A embeddings thus were afterthoughts. (The
bassoons are given in the wrong clef in Matthews's transcription of the manuscript; it is
not clear whether the error is Mahler's or Matthews's.)
3' Motivic process and tonal structure are treated in detail in Baxendale, "The
Finale of Mahler's Fifth Symphony."

3:0 See also Barford's Example 73 (304).




Mahler, Symphony No. 5, V; mm. 16-27.




Mahler, Symphony No. 5, V; mm. 741-751.





-T-col 8


*Violinpartshavebeen simplified

link from the chorale to the coda, where the interlocking fourth-spans
that had originally led from the introduction to the main body of the
movement (see Example 8a) now infiltrate the bass: first in contrary
motion to the melody, then as a basso ostinatothat is repeated no fewer
than twenty times through m. 778 (see Example 8b).32 And the horn
parts beginning in m. 748, which may at first be perceived as another,
incomplete fourth-span, actually state a transformation of the theme
introduced by the clarinet in m. 16 (see Example 8a).
The chorale itself (m. 71 1) combines contrapuntally two of the main

themes of the movement: the fugato subject of m. 56, and the counter32 The sixth and the last four
repetitions are in the trumpets, the rest in the bassoons, cellos, and basses, with the gradual addition of tuba and trombones. In mm.


the figure appears simultaneously

bass instruments.

in the trumpets and in 2:i diminution

in the


subject first stated in m. 88,33 the latter in an augmentation that gives

the effect of an apotheosis. This apotheosis is the reason that the fifthmovement chorale has an opening melody different from that of the
second-movement chorale (cf. Examples 3b and 3c), although both
share the motivic derivation I have cited. The arrival of this chorale, in
other words, is the culmination of a thematic process that is central to
the organization of Part III. However, the material that the two chorales
share-as seen in Example 4-is none other than the apotheosis of the
theme stated at the outset of the fifth movement, and shown in Example
8a. Here, perhaps, is the most important reason that the secondmovement chorale is destined to fail-in Cone's words, "deserves to
fail":34it represents only a foreshadowing of a theme that is formally
introduced, as it were, and brought to its ultimate fruition, in the finale.
We thus understand the ending of the Fifth Symphony as the confluence of multiple processes-narrative, temporal, thematic and
motivic-that thread their way throughout the symphony in a complex
web of interrelationships. This example, like those of the Second and
Fourth Symphonies, illustrates the climactic role of fusion; it differs
from them, though, not only in its complexity but also in the occurrence of the fusion only at the end of the entire symphony. This withholding of the final revelation, literally until the last minute, perhaps
invites misinterpretation by listeners disinclined to remain so long in
suspense. But it is only by recognizing the contextlessness of the latter
portion of the second-movement chorale (a property that Mahler, as we
have seen, underscores in multiple ways) that we can recognize this passage not as a true climax but rather as an event much like the foreshadowing of the Wahn-Monolog:the initial intimation of an idea rich in
unfulfilled implications, the systematic development of which will play
a central role in events yet to be revealed.
The mystique that surrounds Mahler as man and
composer shows every sign of surviving a level of attention and a wealth
of performances that would have been unthinkable only a few years
ago. One striking feature of this mystique is the attention Mahler has
received from non-musical specialists, for whom he seems perhaps to
33 This theme is
m. 52, just before the
actually hinted at-foreshadowed?-in
fugato begins.
34 Cone, "On Derivation," 249; this is also certainly true of the unsuccessful chorale
entry in m. 511 of the Finale. Of the climactic chorale of m. 71 i, Cone says that "the peroration is heard as fully derived from the themes of the rondo that it triumphantly concludes. It has earned its success, so to speak, the hard way--by submitting to the normal
processes of thematic statement and development. As a result, it sounds as if it really
belongs to the movement--not, like so many cyclic returns, arbitrarily introduced." Compare with this the view expressed by Greene (see note 23, above).




personify the late-Romantic artist: the Ken Russell film, for example;
the well-known essay by Lewis Thomas;35 the psycho-musicological studies by Stuart Feder;36 and, of course, the book by Professor of Divinity
David Greene. Even among musicians, though, his music continues to
elicit uniquely deep and powerful responses; Barford, for example,
writes, "I have known quite a few people who, having become devoted
Mahlerians, eventually found themselves living in a world of melancholy introspection and romantic aspiration, in relation to which their
daily duties and responsibilities came to seem an unpleasantly irritating


It seems to me that many of the qualities in Mahler's works that

evoke such broad and deep responses are the same qualities that make
them so difficult to apprehend. These works, in other words, present
unique musico-dramatic problems that demand unique analytic solutions. The approach that I have suggested here is one that neither
rejects the tools of "conventional analysis" in its various forms, nor
embraces a priori the mechanistic application of a particular analytic
paradigm; rather, it enlists some of the music's most palpable characteristics-its use of time, recurrence, and climax-as means for allowing each work to reveal aspects of its deepest logic and meaning.
Louisiana State University

35 This is the title

essay in Lewis Thomas, Late Night Thoughtson Listening to Mahler's
Ninth Symphony(New York, 1983). For Thomas, Mahler's music represents a premonition
of nuclear annihilation.
:(6 Stuart Feder, "Gustav Mahler Um Mitternacht," International Review of PsychoanalysisVII (1980), 1 1-26; "Gustav Mahler: The Music of Fratricide," InternationalReview

of Psychoanalysis VIII (198 1 ), 257-843:7 Barford, "A Thematic Archetype," 308. I suspect that what Barford was witnessing

was actually the reverse of the process he describes; is it not more likely that certain people find in Mahler's music something that resonates with their own temperaments?