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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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The women’s and children’s choirs are led in two voices against one another as if in a dance, and fluttering trills of woodwinds and strings heighten the lightness of mood. “Ever more quickly” (“Immer flotter”), the tempo presses to Allegro mosso. The singing voices become silent, and the dance theme “Hände verschlinget euch” sounds jubilantly like a refrain from trumpets, oboes, violas, and cellos. The trilling motion reaches over into all the agile instruments including the horns, and low basses are absent. Everything is immersed in a sparkling light. The buildup leads higher, and the dazzling brilliance abates. As if from still more pure regions, after a brief mediating molto leggiero G-major interlude, sounds the lovely E-flat-major scherzando of the “younger angels” (“die jüngeren Engel”), led in graceful thirds and sixths (according to the score “a selection of light voices from the women of the first choir” [“Auswahl von leichten Stimmen

des ersten Frauenchores”]):

[Example 8-58: choir 1 sopranos and altos (selection), mm. 443-452, text “Jene Rosen, aus den Händen / Liebend heil’ger Büßerinnen, (“Those roses, from the hands of / Loving holy penitent women,”)]

–  –  –

The cadence motive of the first grand “Veni” conclusion returns:

[Example 8-59: choir 1 sopranos (selection), oboes, mm. 462-469, flutes 1 and 2, mm. 462-465, text “Diesen Seelenschatz erbeuten.” (“By capturing this treasured soul.”)] A brief and light turn to E-flat minor, pointing back to the introductory wind theme, comes at the

memory of the defeat of devils and demons:

[Example 8-60: choir 1 sopranos (selection), mm. 474-482, flutes and oboes, mm. 478-482, text “Böse wichen, als wir streuten / Teufel flohen als wir trafen.” (“The wicked gave way as we scattered them / Devils fled when we met them.”)] It is not the mood of a battle. The victory was won through the power of love, [297] and the “Rose” theme conquered the evil spirits. Only the lowering from E-flat to C-flat major hints at

the lower sphere:

[Example 8-61: choir 1 altos (selection), bassoons, mm. 483-488, choir 1 sopranos (selection), mm. 489-492, text “Statt gewohnter Höllenstrafen” (“Instead of the usual punishments of hell”)]

The pain of love took hold of the demons; the dance rhythm breaks through:

[Example 8-62: choir 1 sopranos and altos (selection), second violins, mm. 496-499, text “Fühlten Liebesqual die Geister;” (“The spirits felt the pain of love;”)] The orchestral sound becomes ever more transparent, and the triangle comes into it. With a

somewhat timid mockery, Mephisto is depicted in unusual descending six-four chords:

[Example 8-63: choir 1 sopranos and altos (selection), flutes, clarinets, mm. 504-507; sopranos only, mm. 508-511, text “Selbst der alte Satansmeister / War von spitzer Pein durchdrungen,” (“Even the old master of devils, / Was pierced by sharp pain,”)] But now the play is over. E-flat major rushes forth, and all women’s voices of the first choir unite in solemn sounds, moving in their childlike simplicity:46 [Example 8-64: choir 1 sopranos and altos (all), mm. 512-520, text “Jauchzet auf! Es ist gelungen.” (“Shout for joy! It has succeeded.”)]

The trumpets brightly belt out the “Accende–Gerettet”:

[Example 8-65: trumpets, mm. 520-526] “Quickly” (“Flott”), the orchestral voices swing upward. Suddenly the cheerful strength appears to let up, and a shadow falls over the dynamics and rhythm. Basses sink from the pedal point Eflat to D, the tempo becomes slower, almost dragging, and D-minor sounds press to the forefront.

It is the same change as after the first conclusion of the “Veni creator,” with the same heavy,

downward pressing motive of fourths:

[Example 8-66: flutes, E-flat clarinet, first violins, mm. 540-543] It is not only the instrumental interlude that points back to the first part. The choir also begins the earlier lament, though certainly with a different meaning. Once, the despondency due to the consciousness of weakness caused the minor-key recoloring of the “Veni” motive. Now it is taken over by the choir of the “more perfect angels” (“die vollendeteren Engel”), still carrying

with it a reminiscence of the yet incompletely resolved past:

–  –  –

With minimal deviations, the entire choral passage of the “Infirma” is retained: the mystical darkness of the color, the individually sounding “Veni” calls, the double choral layout. “Very

warmly” (“Sehr warm”), the song theme of the first movement is heard from the solo alto:

[Example 8-68: alto 1 solo (with much doubling from violins), mm. 566-573, text “Kein Engel trennte / Geeinte Zwienatur / Der innigen beiden:” (“No angel will separate / The united dual nature / of these two intimately connected things:”)] [298] Now the promise, from modulatory changes pointing to E-flat major with the inverted “Veni” theme:

[Example 8-69: alto 1 solo, mm. 573-580, text “Die ewige Liebe nur / Vermags zu scheiden.” (“Only eternal love / Is able to part them.”)] “Ever more broadly, strongly coming forward” (“Immer breiter, stark hervortretend”) swells this song of the solo alto, following the line of the “Infirma.” Now there is a significant deviation.

There the song broke off uncompleted before the closing chord, and the fantastic development section began. Here the melodic conclusion glides directly into the confirming E-flat of the closing chord. The bridge has been forged. From the heights, harking back to the orchestral introduction of the second part, sounds the choir of “younger angels,” proclaiming the

awakening to life with the bright strokes of the glockenspiel:

[Example 8-70: choir 1 sopranos and altos (doubled throughout by high woodwinds), mm. 580text “Ich spür’ soeben / Nebelnd um 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!”)]

–  –  –

The glockenspiel becomes more prevalent. New hosts flock in. Into the choral lines that are redirected to G major sounds, “accompanying” (“begleitend”), as if still in the distance, the devout song of Doctor Marianus from the “highest, purest cell” (“in der höchsten, reinlichsten Zelle”).

–  –  –

It is a constant lifting and floating. The choir of blessed boys begins to sing the erstwhile “Amorem cordibus” and later “Hände verschlinget euch” for the third and last time, greeting the

redeemed one in their midst:

[Example 8-71: boys’ choir, mm. 613-616, text “Freudig empfangen wir / Diesen im Pupenstand;” (“Joyfully we receive / This man in the pupal state;”)]

–  –  –

“Accompanying” (“Begleitend”), “gradually somewhat stronger” (“allmählich etwas stärker”), and then “suddenly emerging in the forefront with full voice” (“mit voller Stimme plötzlich hervortretend”), the song of Doctor Marianus, “enraptured” (“entzückt”), in sight of the opened


[Example 8-72: Doctor Marianus (solo tenor), mm. 639-649, text “Höchste Herrscherin der welt!

/ Lasse mich im blauen, / Ausgespannten Himmelszelt” (“Highest Mistress of the world! / Allow me, in the blue / Expansive firmament”)]

–  –  –

In solemn breadth streams the song, tender throughout, yet filled with deep ardor. Transparent wind harmonies support it, while intimately eloquent melodic string turns complement and flow about it. At the closing lines, it sinks from the E-major rapture into E-flat major with organ-like


[Example 8-73: Doctor Marianus (solo tenor), mm. 706-719; cellos, mm. 713-718, text “Plötzlich mildert sich die Glut, / Wenn du uns befriedest.” (“Suddenly the glow abates, / As you give us peace.”)] The tempo becomes slower and slower. The motion almost dies, and only harmonies that slide into each other are still heard. In the solo violin, molto devoto, an unearthly, tender melody soars upward, the transfiguration of the Marianus song, which, accompanied by a mystical men’s choir,

sinks into sacred contemplation:

[Example 8-74: Doctor Marianus (solo tenor), mm. 724-733; choir 1 basses, mm. 728-733 (top line only except for m. 732; solo violin, mm. 724-730, text “Jungfrau, rein im schönsten Sinne,” (“Virgin, pure in the loveliest sense,”)]

–  –  –

Unfinished, not capable of speaking the unspeakable, the song breaks off on the dominant.49 The orchestra provides the E-flat-major conclusion with the “Accende” in the horns, and then swings to E major. All harps and the piano rush up, and in the wind and string orchestra are only celestial harmonies of an incorporeal sound. The ascent of the second large group is complete, the last sheaths fall, and the highest manifestation draws near. There sound only harmonium [300] (“weakest rank” [“schwächstes Register”]) and quiet harp chords. Above them, “soaring (“schwebend”), vibrando,” in “extremely slow” (“äußerst langsam”) Adagissimo, is the solo violin, “espressivo, but always pianissimo, on the fingerboard” (“espressivo, aber stets

pianissimo, am Griffbrett”):

[Example 8-75: first violins (or solo violin), mm. 780-795] “Mater gloriosa soars above” (“Mater gloriosa schwebt einher”).

In unapproachable tenderness, the melody sings out, heightening the song of Doctor Marianus to the expression of rapture beyond comprehension. A curious spiritual relationship of Mahler the lyricist with Robert Schumann, already noticeable in the second “Nachtmusik” of the Seventh Symphony, again attracts attention here. In this last version, Mahler’s melody corresponds with Schumann’s familiar lullaby for piano almost note for note. Not only to the line, but also to the emotional meaning. The rocking, dreamlike, soaring aspects of the mood, between slumber and wakefulness, provide the fundamental inner tone that is here spiritualized to a visionary trance.50 Soft choral voices blend into the instrumental sounds, pleading for the

penitent women who press themselves at the feet of the universal mother:

–  –  –

At first tenderly nestling into the orchestral sound, the voices gradually obtain their own melodic


[Example 8-76: choir 1 sopranos (with doubling from flutes, clarinets, and violins), mm. 825-834, text “Wer zerreißt aus eigner Kraft / Der Gelüste Ketten?” (“Who, with his own strength, can tear apart / The chains of desire?”)]

–  –  –

Radiantly, the Gloriosa theme rushes upward in the woodwind choir, piano and celesta accompany in tremolo, and harp arpeggios join in flowing motion. Together with the choir is

heard the voice of the single penitent woman (Una poenitentium):

–  –  –

The gently oncoming voices echo as if in a wide space. In contrast to the supplicants, the appearances of the three greatly blessed penitents, [301] Maria Magdalena (Magna peccatrix), the Samaritan woman (Mulier Samaritana), and Mary of Egypt (Maria Aegyptiaca), descend, directing their pleas above. “With restrained expression” (“Mit verhaltenem Ausdruck”), placed above dark woodwind chords, and only accompanied by the sounds of the harp, Magna peccatrix

begins in a tenderly hastening, secretive tone:

[Example 8-77: Magna peccatrix (solo soprano 1), mm. 868-875, text “Bei der Liebe, die den Füßen / Deines gottverklärten Sohnes” (“By the love, which at the feet / Of your son, glorified by God”)]

–  –  –

Falling into the words with a tender lament, as it were, exchanging the closing E-flat major with E-flat minor, Mulier Samaritana follows, accompanied by a “lamenting” (“klagend”) treble voice

of flute and violin:

[Example 8-78: Mulier Samaritana (solo alto 1), flute, solo violin, mm. 906-914, text “Bei dem Bronn, zu dem schon weiland / Abram ließ die Herde führen,” (“By the well, to which in former times / Abram had caused the flock to be led,”)]

–  –  –

In the orchestra, the alternation of the trombone quartet together with the tuba, then the cellos in fourfold division with the clarinets trilling on a low F, then the horns, provides an unusual harmonic and instrumental play of colors. The song line rises, and the accompanying upper

registers with it:

[Example 8-79: Mulier Samaritana (solo alto 1), mm. 927-935, text “Bei der reinen, reichen Quelle, / Die nun dorther sich ergießet,” (“By the pure, rich source / That now gushes from thence,”)] A painting of sound in the tender rustling of the orchestra. The melody rises up in harps and flutes, as in a softly urgent plea, and intensifies at the close of the song, carried by accented

harmonies of the wind section to a broad E-flat major:

[Example 8-80: Mulier Samaritana (solo alto 1), mm. 946-956, text “Überflüssig, ewig helle, / Rings durch alle Welten fließt –” (“Overabundant, eternally bright / Flowing around through all worlds –”)] In the orchestra, it sounds like the undulating ringing of high bells: string trills and pizzicati, flute

trills, tremolo in celesta and piano, and also the idyllic double motive of the harps:

[Example 8-81: harp 1, mm. 964-967] Becoming quieter, it continues to sound in the G-minor song of the third blessed penitent woman,

Maria Aegyptiaca:

[Example 8-82: Maria Aegyptiaca (solo alto 2), mm. 970-977, text “Bei dem hochgeweihten Orte, / Wo den Herrn man niederließ,” (“By the highly consecrated place / Where the Lord was laid to rest,”)]

–  –  –

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