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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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It should be emphasized that this division is not carried out in an externally discernible way and that one may not speak of an unquestionable intention of Mahler. One could set the boundaries of the sections differently, particularly the second and third, for they flow over into each other. That a similar basic idea operated in Mahler, however, must be regarded as certain, as long as one rejects the view of a purely compulsive, unconscious type of design as unworthy, as inadequate with respect to the great work of art. In addition, the three-part division, as with the “Veni” hymn, reveals the sense of the poem. It reflects the process of purification, of the stepwise ascent from the “holy mountain” of the Anchorites to the region of the angels and the “purest cell” of Doctor Marianus, and from there to the spheres of the Mater gloriosa. Thus, the musical formal design also corresponds here to the poem. In a certain sense, the symphonic construction provides the scenic architecture. The musician takes the law of his action [291] from the visual imagination of the poet. With this, he provides a more deeply internalized interpretation than the pictorial aspects of the staged production were ever capable of doing.41 “Mountain glens, forest, rocks, desert” (“Bergschluchten, Wald, Fels, Einöde”), Goethe heads the Anchorite scene. Commentators believe that that he may have had the Montserrat Mountains in mind, upon which, besides an abbey, a large number of hermitages, distributed along the slopes and upon the peaks, can be found. Others think of the holy Mount Athos in Greece, whose mighty plateau houses a religious free state—several thousand souls, many monasteries, chapels, hermitages—the center of the Anatolian faith. Mahler draws a primeval landscape, lying outside of times. He begins Poco adagio with an orchestral prelude, the most extensive instrumental passage of the work. E-flat minor is the principal key, but initially it can only be surmised. A quiet cymbal beat and a tremolo E-flat in the first violins, which buzzes pianissimo after a jarring entry, begin. In the string basses, an upward directed pizzicato motive

emerges and rises in the second measure:

[Example 8-41: cellos and basses, mm. 2-3] It is the “Accende” of the first movement, the call to light. There triumphantly resounding into the closing Gloria from boys’ choir, trumpets, and trombones, it now appears shadow-like, divested of its splendor. The scene that begins here already lies far above the region in which the first movement closed. The brightest appearance of the first part now sounds from the lowest depths. Layered above it are delicately floating sounds from flutes and clarinet, in a simple line

without harmonic filling:

[Example 8-42: flutes, mm. 4-8, clarinet 1, mm. 4-5] From the second measure on, the theme is the augmented repetition of the new form of the “Accende,” its continuation, as it were. Both appearances, the one pressing up from the depths of the strings and the one sinking down in the winds, strive against one another, and the constantly floating violin tremolo between them provides a shimmering celestial light. The wind theme first establishes itself harmonically in the A-flat major of the bassoons and cellos. In triple piano from the bass voices, it sounds solemnly, like a chorale, with a mystical closing turn that

slides from D-flat major to C major:

[Example 8-43: clarinets, bassoons, violas, cellos, basses, mm. 24-28] The violin tremolo suddenly dies away as horns and bassoons attempt to continue the chorale. It does not arrive at a conclusion and fades away. The opening returns again. The tremolo starts to flicker, the pizzicato “Accende” now sounds in the higher register of the middle voices, and of the descending wind theme only the beginning is heard, sinking stepwise from the

A-flat of the flute to the morendo E-flat:

[Example 8-44: flutes 1 and 2, mm. 35-41] Once again the incomplete chorale in E-flat major from bassoons and low strings. Then a turn back to E-flat minor. The two opposing themes appear for the last time, losing themselves in dying sounds. Suddenly, a violent protest. The tempo becomes “somewhat quicker” (“etwas bewegter”), and piano suddenly changes to fortissimo. “Appassionato,” the horn intones the wind theme, and oboes continue it with a passionate extension: [292] [Example 8-45: horn 1, top voice of cellos, mm. 57-66; oboes, horns 3 and 7, mm. 62-66; violas, all cellos, mm. 64-66] The melodic motion, driven by the urgent bass theme, increases, and the wind theme, encroaching onto the strings, forms itself into a broadly sweeping melody. Then it rises up again

in the winds without concluding, unresolved, back to the height from which it originated:

[Example 8-46: second violins, mm. 76-77; cellos, mm. 76-81, basses, mm. 79-81; first violins, mm. 78-79; horn 1, mm. 80-81; English horn, bassoons, mm. 80-87; oboes, violas, mm. 82-87;

flutes, mm. 86-87] The opening mood returns again. The violin tremolo, now on B-flat, the pizzicato motive of the strings in the depths, and floating above them, expanded by incisive interjections from the flute, the wind theme, hollowly fading in B-flat-minor sounds of the clarinets. A second outburst begins with a sudden Più mosso, Allegro moderato. The “Accende” motive is formed into a horn melody, and in the violins, a wildly ascending countermelody rings out, led in broken rhythms

and a restless line:

[Example 8-47: first violins, mm. 96-101; horn, mm. 97-103; oboes, mm. 97-98, 103; cellos, mm.

99-103; basses, mm. 101-102; flutes, m. 103] Accellerando and stringendo, the motion presses forward. The violin theme reaches into the whole string section and the woodwinds. Horns and trumpets belt out the “Accende,” darkened into minor. The themes are violently driven against each other. There then sounds from the flute

quartet, in triple piano, a bright E-flat major:

[Example 8-48: flutes, mm. 147-154; bassoon, mm. 153-154] The minor-key beginning is reminiscent of the opening of the introductory wind theme, but leads it further in a new, songlike closed form. The theme obtains an interpretation later from the angel choir: “Ich spür soeben nebelnd in Felsenhöh’ ein Geisterleben, regend sich in der Näh” (“At this moment I perceive, in the mist of the rocky heights, a lively spirit stirring nearby”).

Here the commentary of the words is still missing. The flute quartet has only the effect of a message from above, bringing major-key liberation out of minor-key agitation. The low voices fall silent. After the flutes finish, the lower woodwinds continue to quietly hum the melody.

Trumpet and trombones attempt the same, but do not move beyond the beginning. They fall back into the original wind theme without [293] continuing it. As in the beginning, the tremolo E-flat of the violins sharply starts up, and the pizzicato motive sounds from the basses. The wind theme, however, now forced from its high regions into the depths, sounds from clarinet, bassoon,

contrabasssoon, and tuba to the softly fading E-flat-major close in the horns:

[Example 8-49: bass clarinet, bassoons, contrabassoon, tuba, horns, cellos, basses, mm. 159-160] The instrumental prelude is at its end. It brought the two principal themes, the upward pressing one from the basses, and the downward sinking one in the winds. It combined them, weaving them into a passionate penetration, threw the angelic message of the flute choir into the gathering darkness, then allowed both themes, lying beside each other in the depths, to conclude in pure major. Thus, it provided an introduction into the basic mood of the piece and a brief hint of its entire course. The curtain rises, and the choir begins.

The instrumental picture is the same as at the beginning, the fantastic landscape of the holy mountain: the violin tremolo with the two themes that strive toward each other. Now the choir is added. “Holy Anchorites, spread across the mountain, lodged between clefts. Choir and Echo.” (“Heilige Anachoreten gebirgauf verteilt, gelagert zwischen Klüften. Chor und Echo.”) The stage direction is significant, as it gives instruction for the musical style. The choir does not flow in one stream. It sounds out in brief aborted chordal calls and sharp dotted rhythms.

Coming from different heights, they sound into each other like an echo, in floating 3/2 meter

instead of the 4/4 of the instrumental passage:

[Example 8-50: choir 1 tenors, choir 2 basses, mm. 171-173] E-flat minor again provides the basic harmonic color. The choirs begin without thirds, heightening the unearthly impression with hollow fifths and fourths. The thematic grouping is transferred onto the vocal lines. In the upper voices is a suggestion of the wind theme. With the

continuation of the text, the bass theme is pictorially adapted to the words:

[Example 8-51: choir 1 tenors and basses, choir 2 basses, violas, cellos, str. basses, mm. 180-182] The mood remains uniformly mysterious. There is no building or increase of the instrumental voices. Height and depth are lodged directly above each other without harmonic filling. So sound the voices of the holy hermits who, startled out of their rest, observe a new event proclaiming itself in unusual signs of nature:42

–  –  –

[294] The song suddenly falls silent. The development of the instrumental introduction is repeated. From low winds and strings the chorale sounds, dying away without closure as before.

The unusual signs are multiplied, observed in astounded broken whispers that gradually take on a

melodic outline:

[Example 8-52: choir 1 first altos, mm. 204-207, choir 1 first tenors, mm. 205-206, text “Löwen, sie schleichen stumm / Freundlich um uns herum.” (“Lions silently prowl / About us in a friendly way.”)] The orchestra becomes silent except for the tremolo violins. The chorale tune now obtains its

interpretation in the choir of holy men:

[Example 8-53: choir 1 tenors, mm. 209-213 (first tenors only, mm. 212-213), text “Ehren geweihten Ort, / Heiligen Liebeshort.” (“Honoring the consecrated place, / Holy refuge of love.”)] The echo reverberates in the orchestra, and the hermit choir becomes silent. Out of their midst, the individual voice of Pater ecstaticus struggles upward, broadly presenting the newly won and

established melody in a “very passionate” (“sehr leidenschaftlich”) E-flat-major song:

[Example 8-54: Pater ecstaticus (solo baritone), mm. 219-225, text “Ewiger Wonnebrand, / Glühendes Liebesband,” (“Eternal flame of bliss / Glowing bond of love,”)]

–  –  –

The brightly shining E-flat-major “Accende” in the trumpets crowns the heaven-striving song, in whose pure melodic sweep Pater ecstaticus, “soaring up and down” (“auf- und abschwebend”), moving between the spheres, appears to anticipate the rapture of last revelation.43 But the things of the world have not yet been overcome. From the “nether region” (“tiefe Region”), the voice of Pater profundus rings out “with powerful tone” (“mit mächtigem Ton”). It is also an aspiring song, but still suffused with wild passions, inwardly moved by the sight of elemental images in nature as the symbols of the Divine. Moving back to E-flat minor, it provides the postponed

interpretation of the Allegro portion of the instrumental introduction:

[Example 8-55: Pater profundus (solo bass), mm. 265-273, text “Wie Felsenabgrund mir zu Füßen / Auf tieferm Abgrund lastend ruht, / Wie tausend Bäche strahlend fließen” (As a rocky chasm at my feet / Rests heavily upon a deeper chasm, / As a thousand streams brightly flow”)]

–  –  –

Wide intervallic leaps, eruptive intensity and fervor of presentation, richly executed instrumental accompaniment that presses in heightened animation, sharp-edged rhythm, and above all the declamatory treatment of the voice make this second solo song the antithesis of the first. The raw minor-key elements of the introduction are released and thereby pacified. This is the goal of the music. As with the song of Pater ecstaticus, it also here concludes with the triumphal “Accende” of the brass choir. To lead this “Accende” to its liberation from all inhibitions is the musical function of the first main group in the second part.45 In the orchestra, the broad melody of the Ecstaticus song follows, the tempo increases, and a dynamic swelling proclaims a new outlook. The landscape of the Anchorites sinks away. The choir of angels “soaring in the higher atmosphere, carrying Faust’s immortal soul” (“schwebend in der höhern Atmosphäre, Faustens unsterbliches tragend”), becomes visible. In a B-major fortissimo from both female choirs, the “Gerettet” (“Saved”) sounds out to the theme of the “Accende” in its

original form, confirmed and continued by the orchestra:

[Example 8-56: all choral sopranos and altos, mm. 384-389; flutes, oboes, and clarinets, mm.

389-393, text “Gerettet ist das edle Glied / Der Geisterwelt vom Bösen:” (“Saved is the noble member / Of the spirit world from evil:”)]

–  –  –

[296] The entry of the previously unused women’s voices in contrast to the now silent men’s choirs, the change from the circle of flat keys to B major, the fresh Allegro deciso, flowing ever more freely, and the transparent treatment of the orchestra in comparison to the either mystical or solid and heavy sound of the first section, immediately give the impression of a higher, untroubled region. Almost exactly corresponding to the “Accende” of the first movement, only changing the powerful outburst there to the expression of transfiguration, the song continues to sound. The “Amorem cordibus” of the earlier boys’ choir now becomes a “choir of blessed boys,

circling around the highest summit” (“Chor seliger Knaben, um die höchsten Gipfel kreisend”):

[Example 8-57: boys’ choir, mm. 402-406, text “Hände verschlinget euch / Freudig zum Ringverein!” (“Join your hands together / Joyfully in the round dance!”)]

–  –  –

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