In the City of Music

Mahler’s Jewish heritage gave him both specific musical sources and an ear for the outsider’s voice.
“Always an intruder, never welcomed....”
VIDEO:SFS Principal Bass Scott Pingle on Mahler’s music
  • Mahler’s sense of being an outsider shaped the emotional quality of his music. The third movement of his Sixth Symphony is perhaps the most poignantly musical introspection he ever wrote.

VIDEO:Mezzo soprano Susan Graham on Mahler
  • In one of Mahler’s settings of poetry by Friedrich Rückert, “I am lost to the world” (Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen) the voice gently disappears into the instruments, perfectly expressing the text’s expression of the end of isolation through art:
    I am dead to the world’s tumult
    and I rest in a quiet place!
    I live alone in my heaven,
    in my love, in my song.

Mahler's Methods

A Valued Mentor

Mahler called Anton Bruckner his “forerunner”. In the use of the Ländler in his colossal slow movements, and even in his transitions between keys, the elder Austrian composer foreshadowed several of the musical and aesthetic preoccupations of the younger one. Here are extracts from the slow movements of the Sixth Symphonies of both composers.

  • Bruckner

  • Mahler

Related Examples
Discovering a Phrase
  • Mahler often lets us in on the creation of a lyrical idea by giving us the first two notes of a phrase, then three, and eventually the whole musical thought. In this piano introduction to a song on a poem by Fredrich Rückert, "I am Lost to the World" (Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen), this sequence evokes the quality of introspective thought.

Related Examples
VIDEO:MTT on Mahler's Rückert Songs
A Favorite Poet

Mahler turned to the poetry of Friedrich Rückert (1788 - 1866) for two important song collections: Songs on the Deaths of Children (Kindertotenlieder)and the five settings collectively titled simply Rückert Songs (Rückert-Lieder). Mahler felt a deep aesthetic kinship with the poet's imaginative and imagistic vocabulary, moreover, both artists were attracted to Oriental sources. Mahler himself had written a student essay on the influence of the Orient on German literature and later turned to Chinese poetry for his last great song-symphony The Song of the Earth (Das Lied von der Erde).

Related Examples