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«THE EIGHTH SYMPHONY [268 blank] [269] On September 12, 1910 in Munich, under Mahler’s direction, the premiere performance of the Eighth Symphony ...»

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Particularly the first part of the fugue shows this convergence from all sides. It begins in E-flat major and firmly maintains this key until directly before its conclusion. To the two choirs are added as a third, independent group the seven soloists, and as a fourth the boys’ choir, this last belting out the themes in the manner of a cantus firmus over the mass of singing voices. All the devices of contrapuntal writing are called for. Both principal themes, initially assigned to the double choir and only accompanied in the orchestra by prominent chords after the beat, appear combined later on in inversion along with simple and double augmentation. The orchestra is drawn into the thematic development, and the choirs no longer alternate with each other, but are heard at the same time.

The leading of voices winds itself tighter and tighter, always maintaining the urgent march rhythm, [287] until, after a brief swing of the choir over A major to D-flat major, a broad unison of the soloists proclaims “Now and forever” in a solemn augmentation of the “Spiritus” theme, while the “Veni” sounds out at the same time in the orchestra:

[Example 8-32: all solo voices, cellos and basses, mm. 360-365] With that, the aspiration to E major is newly won. The previous development of the entire movement is reviewed in a sort of condensed and intensified version. The “Accende” sounds out,

accompanied by the “Veni”:

[Example 8-33: choir 1 sopranos, mm. 365-369; choir 1 tenors and basses, mm. 365-367; boys’ choir, mm. 365-366; choir 1 and 2 basses, horns, mm. 366-369; trombones 1 and 2, mm. 366-367] This theme is also swept into the whirlwind of the fugue, losing its prevalent independence, its tonal symbolism, combining itself with the other thematic appearances. Even the “Imple superna” is stripped of its reverently imploring expression and, carried by the “Accende” in the basses, forms itself into a penetrating, upward sweeping cry of jubilation:

[Example 8-34: boys’ choir, partially doubled by choral sopranos and altos, mm. 380-384; choral basses, cellos, string basses, mm. 381-383] From the modulatory restlessness of the middle passage, the harmonic curve turns back to E-flat major. A pedal point spanning over 22 measures presages the coda group of the fugue. The soloists and both choirs crowd ever closer together until a unison wave of the choir, its sound penetrated by long-held calls of the solo voices, leads back into the reprise of the main

movement with the “Spiritus” theme, rolling in inexhaustible breadth:

[Example 8-35: all choral voices, mm. 408-413; sopranos and tenors, m. 414] The development, perhaps better called the heightening based on its significance, has ended.37 The promise has been fulfilled. What sounded in the beginning of the movement as an urgent call, then disappeared in the mist at the beginning of the development, became hopeful again through the “Accende” and more and more certain through the fugue, that now appears as reality, as a living presence, similar to the opening and yet different. The pedal point B-flat of the fugue coda does not proceed to E-flat at the entry of the main theme. It continues to drone during the first measures up until the turn to B-flat major, identifying the return of the main idea as something that has been very long awaited. The words that Mahler allows to return here are a bold expansion of the original, but such an expansion that not only gives the poem a tighter structure, but also illuminates the sense—after the fact—of what has gone before. Mahler only uses the first line, “Veni creator spiritus,” then skips immediately to the second stanza, “Qui Paraclitus,” and jumps, omitting the stanzas used for the development, to the penultimate quatrain, the plea for “the salvation of grace, [288] the anticipation of joy, the freedom from discord, and the gift of peace.” The recapitulation therefore lacks the verses of the “Imple superna” that underlay the secondary theme. Not only the words are absent, but also the music that belongs to them: the mystical D-flat- and A-flat-major passage with the song theme. They are absent because they are now redundant. That reverent plea for the fulfillment of grace, that gentle, devoted dream is, in the face of that fulfillment, no longer necessary. There is now no room for the unworldly contemplation and passivity of those moods.38 Perhaps individual brief

turns in the plea for peace echo the secondary theme:

[Example 8-36: choir 1 altos and tenors, mm. 434-436] But these are only fleeting reminiscences. The Pentecostal spirit inexorably rushes on, with both choirs and the soloists alternating and calling in unremitting intensification. With the call for leadership, resounding with the greatest strength, “Go before us and lead us on: So will we be conquerors of all evil,” the concluding cadence is directed upward to a massive ritenuto, similar

to that in the main section:

[Example 8-37: choir 2 sopranos, mm. 484-489; choir 2 altos and alto soloists, m. 484; choir 1 sopranos and soprano soloists, mm. 485-489] A-flat major now provides the glorious conclusion, and a dramatic change to E major in the orchestra provides one more memory of the “Accende” awakening. Now the last transformation, the transfiguration. The “Infirma” theme, once a passionate C-sharp-minor lament of weakness, now, in the returning E-flat major, becomes a Gloria. Like a bright pealing of bells it sounds

from the boys’ choir, which enters in majestic D-flat:

[Example 8-38: boys’ choir, mm. 508-511] It is a moment of shattering glory, of solemn rapture. A quiet timpani roll on F, a deep-breathed upward pressing scale motive in the horns, a shimmering tremolo in the strings. As from the

highest spheres, the “Veni” theme sounds in double augmentation from both solo sopranos:

[Example 8-39: soprano soloists, mm. 512-518; trumpet 1, mm. 516-518] It is as if the heavens were opening and the “Gloria” of the hosts sounding down to a reverently

silent humanity. The vision only lasts for a few measures. Then the answer roars up from below:

“Glory to the Father, to the Son, to the Redeemer Spirit from eternity to eternity.” Double choir, soloists and orchestra in the most extreme fullness. Sounding above everything, “posted in isolation” (“isoliert, postiert”), are four trumpets, three trombones, and the boys’ choir with the

revelatory theme of the “Accende,” pointing to otherworldly heights:

[Example 8-40: boys’ choir, mm. 564-572, doubled by trumpets posted in isolation, mm. 564-569] The first part, which maintains the Allegro impetuoso character throughout with minor episodic deviations, is a flight of such unprecedented strength, without precedent even for the intensity of a Mahler, and such breathtaking force of momentum, that a continuation in the same line, even externally, seems hardly conceivable. [289] Even if another poetic subject of a similar kind had been found for the second part and the creative strength of the musician had been sufficient for such a renewed intensity—the uniformity in the principles of the design would have already caused a weakened effect. It would have either ruined the effect of the first part after the fact or, with more probability, the significance of the second. The receptivity of the audience would have necessarily collapsed, for continuous ecstasy loses its persuasive forcefulness. The first movement represents the utmost extent of that which the majority of listeners are capable of receiving, witnessing, and returning. It was not only about giving the first movement an analogous complement. The complement was to be designed in such a way that it deepened through contrast the sweeping ascent that preceded it, while still maintaining its loftiness. It was important to fill the intensity, which up to now has been mainly turned outward, with internal life, to give intimacy and the devotion of a religious vision to the upward impulse that impels a spiritual transcendence of the self. Mahler finds the poetic basis for such an assignment in the closing scenes of Goethe’s Faust. The diversity in its world of appearances, the rich changes of mood, and the variety in the use of language all constitute a strong contrast to the hymn, whose effect comes through uniformity of idea and diction. Mahler forms these scenes musically according to their nature. A storm up to the summit does not provide the musical impetus, and it is not necessary to preserve any unity. The summit has been reached, and now the plurality of forms must obtain a single shape. The moment of intensification as a determining force is abandoned, and a wide-ranging mosaic of pictures spreads out. Not in the sense of loosely connected episodes that are arbitrarily strung together. Cohesion and a large architectonic line are also present here. As rich as this part is in individual features, it appears just as closed as a whole. But the harnessing of the form is not prominent, as it was in the first part, as an artistic medium that is consciously applied. It remains latent in the subconscious of the listener. Above the richness and the constant alternation of impressions, he does not become aware of the secret connection that allows everything to emerge from one source, to strive toward one point. The persuasive means of the first movement was an inescapable power, a dictatorial compulsion. It grabbed the listener from the outside, so to speak, and dragged him into the whirlwind of events before which the individual must have felt like an atom. The second part loosens this bond, as it generally loosens everything that is material, and penetrates from within. The boundaries of the individual are not blurred by the formation of the massed crowd.

They are laid bare by an ever more delicate atomization from the outer layers to the spiritual core.

A life of fellowship from the idea of love is here as it was there. Both times, however, it acts from opposite directions and works through diverse means. There, an onslaught of the masses that bursts all boundaries, here purification and transfiguration of the most private personal experience.

This variety corresponds to the method of presentation. The main feature of the first part is activity. It makes its effect in dramatic liveliness. The main feature of the second part is lyrical calm. It is developed in a series of diverse scenes to an ever more profound introspection.

Accordingly, the type of melodic stylization is different from that of the first part. [290] The themes of the first part aim for the sharpest formulation, prominence of accents, strict contour, and urgency of linear expression. The themes of the second part have something suspended, easy, relaxed, and ethereal throughout. An appealing sound, flexibility, and the capability of persuasion by working not upon the affect, but upon the feeling, are emphasized in them. They rest upon the urge to mysticism, upon the gentle stirrings of a hidden inner life. Naturally, this opposition is not valid for every detail, only for certain basic stylistic features. It is most distinctly characterized in the way in which the main themes of the first movement are used within the second. Here, they unfold expressive values that are partially opposed to the earlier ones.

There were not only questions of style, of inner continuation and opposition, but it was above all the question of formal structure that was raised by taking up the plan for a Faust composition. Mahler composed the conclusion of the Faust dramatic poem from the Anchorite scene on through the Chorus mysticus, with cuts only in the songs of Pater seraphicus, Doctor Marianus, and the choir of blessed boys.39 The poem does not offer the musician any distinctly recognizable breaks. It allows the imagination great leeway in regard to the musical treatment.

The task was, not only in a spiritual sense, but also in terms of formal design, considerably more difficult than with the hymn of the first movement.

Mahler became the master of these difficulties as a symphonist. He divides the poetic model into three groups. As the first, introductory group he takes the purgatory scene of the mystics: the Anchorites and the three “holy men,” Pater ecstaticus, Pater profundus, Pater seraphicus. This scene of the “world conquerors,” imagined as the limbo between heaven and earth, becomes for him an Adagio. Following as the second section, a scherzo-like passage arises that is full of light, floating rhythms and sounds. It begins with the song of the angels in the “highest Atmosphere” (“höhern Atmosphäre”):40 “Gerettet ist das edle Glied” (“Saved is the noble member”). The conclusion is provided by the hymn of Doctor Marianus “in the highest, purest cell” (“in der höchsten, reinlichsten Zelle”): “Hier ist die Aussicht frei” (“Here the view is clear”), which finishes with the call to the queen of heaven. The last, actual final portion begins with the appearance of the Mater gloriosa, proclaimed by the choir of penitent women. It ends with the Chorus mysticus.

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