Uploaded on Aug 16, 2011
The Symphony No. 9 by Gustav Mahler was written between 1908 and 1909, and was the last symphony that he completed.
The symphony is in four movements:
1. Andante comodo (D major);
2. Im Tempo eines gemächlichen Ländlers. Etwas täppisch und sehr derb (C major);
3. Rondo-Burleske: Allegro assai. Sehr trotzig (A minor);
4. Adagio. Sehr langsam und noch zurückhaltend (D-flat major).
Although the symphony has the traditional number of movements, it is unusual in that the first and last are slow rather than fast. As is often the case with Mahler, one of the middle movements is a ländler.
The first movement embraces a loose sonata form; the work opens with a hesitant, syncopated motif which is to return at the height of the movement's development as a sudden intrusion of "death in the midst of life", announced by trombones and marked within the score "with the greatest force".
The second movement is a dance, a Ländler, but it has becomes distorted to the point that it no longer resembles a dance. The movement contains shades of the second movement of Mahler's Fourth Symphony, in the distortion of a traditional dance into a dance of death. For example, Mahler alters traditional chord sequences into near-unrecognizable variations, turning the rustic and mostly diatonic C major introductory Ländler into a vicious whole-tone waltz, saturated with accidentals and frantic rhythms. The third movement, in the form of a rondo, displays the final maturation of Mahler's contrapuntal skills. It opens with a dissonant theme in the trumpet which is treated in the form of a double fugue. The following five-note motif introduced by strings in unison recalls the second movement of his Fifth Symphony. The addition of Burleske to the title of the movement refers to the mixture of dissonance with Baroque counterpoint. Although the term "Burlesque" means "humorous", the actual "humor" of the movement is relatively small compared to the overall field of manic violence, considering only two small neo-classical sections that appear more like a flashback than playfulness. The final movement, marked "zurückhaltend", opens for strings only; But most importantly it incorporates a direct quote from the Rondo-Burleske's middle section. Here it becomes an elegy. After several impassioned climaxes the movement becomes increasingly fragmented and the coda ends quietly. On the closing pages, Mahler quotes in the first violins from his own Kindertotenlieder: "The day is fine on yonder heights".
Conductor: Leonard Bernstein & Concertgebouw Orchestra.
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