Echoes Across the Landscape

In the City of Music

Throughout his life, Mahler returned to the natural environment for inspiration.
“My music is always the voice of nature sounding in tone…”
VIDEO:MTT on Mahler
  • The effect of the landscape on the experience of sound is a feature of the scherzo of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Here he creates echoes as though resounding from mountaintop to mountaintop.

  • Similarly evocative portraits of the landscape can be found in his Sixth Symphony. A serene landscape provides relief from the grim march of the first movement of his Sixth Symphony.

Mahler's Methods

A Horn Fantasy

In the Fifth Symphony’s Scherzo, Mahler writes for an "obligato" horn, who leads the orchestra through the movement:

  • The horn leads off with this swinging waltz

  • that sets off a sequence of variations in the orchestra.

  • Even the crow-like calls of the woodwind are in waltz rhythm.

  • Later on, we hear the sounds of the horn echoing from mountaintop to mountaintop, as they introduce a new, majestic melody.

  • It too tells a story as it is developed and varied. At one point, stripped of its grandeur, it’s taken up by a quartet of poor street musicians.

  • In the coda, the universe dances in 3/4 time in this spectacular sequence of flourishes.

Related Examples