Transcendence through God and the Eternal Feminine

In the City of Music

Music shaped by the sacred tradition reflects Mahler’s ongoing search for spiritual transcendence through art.
“O believe, my heart, O believe”
  • Mahler's Eighth Symphony represented Mahler's expression of transcendance. The first movement is based on the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus. "The Spiritus Creator took hold of me and drove me on for the next eight weeks until my greatest work was done." As Alfred Roller reported, “after a rehearsal of the Eighth in Munich, [Mahler] called out cheerfully, 'look, this is my Mass.'" The photo at right is from that rehearsal.

  • The second part of the Eighth Symphony is based on Faust and represents transcendence through “The Eternal Feminine” (das Ewig-Weibliche). Mahler connected the liturgical and literary texts in the third stanza of the hymn: “Accende lumen sensibus, Infunde amorem cordibus!” (“Kindle our Reason with Light. Infuse our hearts with Love!”).

Mahler's Methods

Better than Opera
  • The second part of the Eighth Symphony follows line by line one of the most famous poems in German literature, the last scene of Goethe’s Faust. Mahler’s revels in the power of music to suggest Goethe’s mystical stage directions, such as Pater Estaticus, auf und ab schwebend (soaring up and down).

Related Examples