Gustav Mahler was born in Kalischt, Bohemia, on July 7, 1860. One of the greatest and most influential Romantic composers, he was also one whose own influences were among the richest and most varied. Mahler grew up in rural Bohemia, but when his musical genius was realized, he enrolled in the Vienna Conservatory. Following his formal musical education, he embarked on a dual career as conductor and composer.

Mahler's conducting career took him to many theater, opera, and symphony posts throughout Europe. In 1891 he assumed the post of conductor of the Hamburg Opera; he held the position until 1897.

Mahler's Third Symphony, his longest, most programmatic, most varied, probably his most philosophical (and, to all appearances, the one to which scholars—and Mahler himself—have devoted the most commentary), was composed during his tenure at Hamburg. Mahler spent his summer vacations at this time at a boarding house at Steinbach am Attersee; free from administrative duties, Mahler could give free rein to his creative impulses. Under these circumstances the Third Symphony was fashioned in the summers of 1895 and 1896.

Mahler saw to it that conditions at Steinbach were optimally conducive to composing. His actual work was done in a "composer's hut, furnished with a piano, a table, an armchair, and a sofa." He worked there daily—all morning and often into the afternoon.1 When Mahler was not composing, he spent his time reading philosophy: Kant, Goethe2—and, at the advice of his playwright friend Lipiner—Fechner, who was, among other things, an "animist philosopher who attributed a soul even to stars and plants."3

Mahler dove into his work with enthusiasm. McGrath comments:
Initially, Mahler had intended this work to provide a respite from the intense emotional demands of his first two symphonies. This would be a joyous, comic work. As he jokingly remarked to Natalie Bauer-Lechner, "With it I hope to win applause and money."4
So it was that Mahler peered out at the meadow on his first afternoon at Steinbach, and wrote what is now the second movement of the Third Symphony (the lovely, carefree "Blumenstück")—"planned and completed without a break."5

Mahler turned out five more movements the first summer (1895): an instrumental scherzo, part of which uses the music from Mahler's earlier setting of the poem "Ablösung im Sommer" from Des Knaben Wunderhorn; a slow movement with alto solo, being a setting of Zarathustra's Drunken Song from Friedrich Nietzsche's Zarathustra; a light, childlike movement with alto solo, women's chorus and boychoir, using Mahler's setting of "Es sungen drei Engel" from Wunderhorn; an expressive instrumental adagio; and a gentle song with soprano solo, which was his setting of "Das himmlische Leben," also from Wunderhorn. These would be, respectively, movements three through seven of the Third Symphony. Mahler's plan for the symphony still called for a first movement of considerable length. Seeing the inordinate length of the entire symphony that would result, he decided to remove the seventh movement ("Das himmlische Leben")—it would ultimately become the last movement of the Fourth Symphony. (The removal of the seventh movement was only one of many changes in the overall structure. Originally, what is now the third movement was to be first; the present sixth movement was third; the present second movement was next to last.)6

In the summer of 1896, Mahler turned to the task of writing the colossal first movement. (He had spent much time preparing for the task—for example, one Mahler manuscript containing sketches for themes that are in the first movement is dated "1893 Steinbach"!)7 The carefree attitude with which he had approached the work's composition the previous summer was gone, replaced with a feeling of a heavy, oppressive burden. He later said in reference to the composition of the first movement, "I don't think I should have had the courage had the others not already been completed."8 As Mahler set to work on the movement, the burden became almost unbearable. He writes to Natalie Bauer-Lechner (a violinist friend):
It is fearful the way this movement has caused me to grow beyond everything that I have ever composed. I am literally gripped with terror when I see where the path ordained for music leads and that it has become my terrifying office to become the bearer of this work.9
Mahler found it appropriate to compare himself to Christ, drinking the cup of sorrow on the Mount of Olives—and as such also realized Wagner's prophecy of the "Poet-Priest who would convey the religious lesson of the transcendence of the will in his art."10

Early in July, Mahler wrote to his friend, the great conductor Bruno Walter, with the news that the end of the task was in sight. Mahler's wit is revealed in this letter as he prepares for the inevitable critical reviews, quoting from some previous ones:
The whole thing is, of course, tainted with my deplorable sense of humor and "often takes the opportunity to submit to my dreary taste for dreary noise." The players frequently "do not pay the least attention to one another, and my entire gloomy and brutal nature is nakedly exposed." It is well known that I cannot do without trivialities. This time, however, all permissible bounds have been passed. "One often feels one got into a pub, or a sty!"11

Walter came down from Berlin to hear what Mahler had so far completed, but "nothing would induce [Mahler] to show . . . or to play a single note of a work that was not completely finished. This was his inevitable rule."12

Walter was not held in suspense for long: Mahler completed the first movement on July 28, 1896, having spent less than six weeks composing it.13

The Third Symphony shows, to a degree exhibited in virtually no other work, even of Mahler's, an extremely varied set of influences. One familiar with such Mahler works as Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, the First Symphony, and—especially—Des Knaben Wunderhorn, knows of his affinity for folk music and military music. Mahler's rural Bohemian upbringing brought him in contact with these influences early:

That Mahler was able thus to converse really "in the folk idiom" lay in that he spoke the lower-class language himself; it was to him something like a mother tongue. Thus unlike Strauss and most of his contemporary colleagues, he experienced the lower musical culture.14
As for the military influence, it, too, pervaded his environment from an early age, but he may have gotten even a little extra exposure: when he was two, his nurse used to leave him in a barracks yard while she "enjoyed the company of a soldier friend."15

At the Vienna Conservatory Mahler was trained in the traditional classic style. The city was at that time an unsettled mixture of the affluent, sophisticated life and vile squalor resulting from overpopulation and indifference. Vienna's degeneration was very much an issue in the minds of Viennese cultural and artistic revolutionaries.

Thus Mahler's Vienna experience itself influenced his life—and through it his music—in many varied and often conflicting ways.

In addition Mahler learned counterpoint and sacred music from "the ancient oddity Bruckner."16

Thus Schnebel's summary is not surprising:
What distinguished his music from that of his contemporaries is the multiplicity of languages: that it moved not only in one sphere of language but in several. . . . Inclusion of several and chiefly lower forms of language made Mahler's music inhomogeneous, restless—and seem vulgar.17

The reason for this entire discussion of musical influences on Mahler should become clear with the introduction of what is the Third Symphony's most characteristic and widely discussed aspect: the program. Mahler developed, rearranged, and rejected an astounding number of subtitles for the symphony, for movements, and for sections; Mahler's philosophy and religion as exhibited in various programs for the symphony is the subject of pages and pages of commentary.

As Mahler was first conceiving plans for the symphony, various programs were taking shape. Here is one of the earliest (showing already that the composer would need to call upon diverse sorts of musical expression):

(Not after Shakespeare. Critics and Shakespeare scholars please note.)

1. What the forest tells me.
2. What the twilight tells me.
3. What love tells me.
4. What the twilight tells me.
5. What the cuckoo tells me.
6. What the child tells me.18

A slightly later one reads:


1. Summer marches in (Fanfare and lively march) (Introduction) (Wind only with concerted double-basses).
2. What the forest tells me (1. Movement).
3. What love tells me (Adagio).
4. What the twilight tells me (Scherzo) (Strings only).
5. What the flowers in the meadow tell me (Minuet).
6. What the cuckoo tells me (Scherzo).
7. What the child tells me.

As Mahler proceeded with the composition of the work, many things changed. He added another subtitle: "My Joyful Science." Berges points out that this is an obvious allusion to Nietzsche's "The Joyful Science." But "Mahler stresses that this is not Nietzsche's but his own 'science.'"19 The Summer Night's Dream subtitle was changed to Summer Morning's Dream, then to Summer Noontime's Dream.20 In July, 1896, Mahler used the title Pan, Symphonic Poems.21 The final set of subtitles for the movements is:
1. Pan awakes; summer marches in
2. What the flowers in the meadow tell me
3. What the animals in the woods tell me
4. What night tells me
5. What the morning bells tell me
6. What love tells me22
Other titles used at various times include "Pan's Procession"23 and "What the rocks and mountains tell me"24 for the first movement; "What the angels tell me" for the fifth; "What God tells me" for the sixth.

Within the first movement section titles include "Reveille," "The Herald,"25 "The Mob," and "Southern Storm."26

These many titles do clearly have certain associations and "motifs" in common. Perhaps the most important is nature. "In his Third Symphony," says Walter of Mahler, "nature itself seems to be transformed into sound."27 Mahler found it necessary to qualify the term. He wrote, "It seems to me that most people, when speaking of 'nature,' have in mind only flowers, birds, the scent of the forest, etc. No one seems to know the great Dionysus, the God Pan."28

Mahler's intentions regarding the nature program are clear. Mahler divided the symphony into two parts—the first movement alone constitutes the First Part; the remaining five movements make up the Second Part. The First Part (the first movement) depicts the awakening of nature—the "emergence of mysterious natural forces into the abounding, even commonplace activity of life."29 Then, in the Second Part, he calls upon nature in search of truth; he begins with the lowest forms and proceeds upwards: the flowers, the animals, man, the angels, and finally love. Walter sees this as part of a larger pattern:

Beginning with the Second [Symphony] metaphysical questions demand answers and solutions. The reply is threefold. . . . [In the Second, the] meaning of the tragedy of human life: the clear reply is its justification by immortality. . . . He turns, in the Third, to nature, and after traversing its cycle, reaches the happy conviction that the answer is in "omnipotent love, all-forming, all-embracing." In the Fourth he assures himself and us through a lofty and cheerful dream of the joys of eternal life, that we are safe.30
It is worth noting that if Mahler had included "Das himmlische Leben" in the Third (as originally planned) instead of the Fourth, the ascent through nature's forms would have reached heaven—yet ultimately he felt content in regarding love as the loftiest expression of nature.

In the Third Symphony, as in the First, Second, and Fourth, Mahler included music from his earlier song cycles.31 "Das himmlische Leben," the movement first planned for the Third Symphony but eventually used to conclude the Fourth, is from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. The third movement of the Third includes the music (but not text) of Mahler's setting of the Wunderhorn song "Ablösung im Sommer";32 the fifth movement is a setting of "Es sungen drei Engel," also from Wunderhorn. Des Knaben Wunderhorn is a collection of German folk poetry made in the early nineteenth century by Arnim and Brentano. Mahler's rural background caused him to be drawn inexorably to the poetry, and his settings of Wunderhorn poems are numerous.

The other movement with text is the fourth. The text is from Zarathustra's second dance song (in some sources, called his "Drunken Song") from Friedrich Nietzsche's Zarathustra. In the original poem, each pair of lines is supposed to be separated by a chime of a bell, tolling midnight.33

In spite of Mahler's choice of Nietzsche's text, his agreement with Nietzsche's philosophy is far from total. Although Mahler wrote in 1894 that Nietzsche was "exercising an epoch-making influence" on his life,34 the philosopher's essential pessimism toward man and nature was not acceptable to Mahler. Blaukopf explains:
What he took from Nietzsche's text was determined by the preconceived aims of his symphony. Certainly, man is central to this musical poem—but not Superman. For Mahler, everything human is imbedded in nature.
By way of example, Blaukopf cites a line from Zarathustra: "Never yet have I found the woman whose children I should want." Yet Mahler's sixth movement of the Third is dedicated to "all-embracing fulfillment." "The Third Symphony," he concludes, "affirms faith in the nature of man. In doing this, the symphony presents a critique of Nietzsche."35

The observation that Mahler's fascination with Nietzsche was short-lived is supported by solid evidence. Alma Mahler (then Schindler) wrote this of her future husband in 1901:
My books were still waiting to be installed. . . . My taste appeared to please him, except for a complete edition of Nietzsche, at which his eyebrows went up in horror. He demanded abruptly that it should be cast then and there into the fire.36
McGrath puts Mahler's profession of faith into perspective: "It was in the Third Symphony that Mahler first achieved and fully expressed a clear vision of higher spiritual reality. . . . The central point of the work is more Mahlerian than Nietzschean or Schopenhauerian."37

Ironically, after all of the effort that Mahler put into developing titles and a program—and all the effort scholars have put into discussing them—Mahler eventually withdrew the titles and with them all programmatic associations! His rationale was that as the titles were "only added afterwards because the work was not understood, they have been dropped again because they were misunderstood."38 He learned his lesson from the experience. When he wrote the Fourth Symphony, he "would not hear of giving any titles to his new work . . . for he had no wish to 'divulge them to stupid critics and audiences who would again misunderstand and distort them in the worst possible way.'"39

The programs (notwithstanding their withdrawal) indicate an essential continuity between the Third and Fourth Symphonies. As remarked upon earlier, the cycle of nature depicted in the Third can be said to continue on to heaven, a child's view of which is depicted in the Fourth—and indeed Mahler's original plan of including "Das himmlische Leben" in the Third shows that he had at one point intended to make the continuation. Even as he abandoned this plan, he left two symphonies with a number of themes and motives in common, including the following:



Example 1. Similar themes in Mahler's Third and Fourth Symphonies:
     a) Symphony No. 4, 4th mvmt.
     b) Symphony No. 3, 1st mvmt.



Example 2. Similar themes in Mahler's Third and Fourth Symphonies:
     a) Symphony No. 4, 4th mvmt.
     b) Symphony No. 3, 2nd mvmt.



Example 3. Similar themes in Mahler's Third and Fourth Symphonies:
     a) Symphony No. 4, 4th mvmt.
     b) Symphony No. 3, 5th mvmt.

Returning now to July 28, 1896—Mahler had completed the composition of the symphony, but it had yet to become known to the world. The first (besides Mahler) to hear it was Bruno Walter, for whom Mahler played through it on the piano. He recounts the experience:

It was a musical experience of an undreamed-of and shattering kind to hear him play it on the piano. I was literally dumfounded by the power and novelty of the music, and bowled over by the creative ardor and loftiness of the work as he played it to me.40

Walter recognized the Third as a work of genius. However, the work would have to be orchestrated, edited, and published before the critics and the public could judge for themselves.

Mahler set to work immediately on the first task. Although he was only able to compose during the summer, the work of orchestration—for him more or less a mechanical process—did not interfere with his conducting duties in Hamburg.41 (An idea of Mahler's rapidity at such tasks is given by de La Grange, who describes a freak accident of Mahler's: the composer was copying and orchestrating the second movement [spring, 1896]; he "observed the tempo and values of the notes, and wrote these innumerable groups at top speed"—and injured his hand!)42

The Third Symphony was released to the public a little at a time. The first public presentation of any of it occurred on November 9, 1896, in Berlin. Arthur Nikisch conducted the Berlin Philharmonic in the second movement: the "Blumenstück."

It was a tremendous success—Mahler's biggest ever. Mahler was called to the podium for bows and handshakes with Nikisch.

Even the critics were thrilled: the Vossische Zeitung's critic said it was "poetically felt"; the National Zeitung acknowledged a "happy use of musical color and modern harmony"; the critic from the Börsenzeitung was "pleasantly surprised" and found it "tenderly poetic and melodically attractive." The critic Eichberg expressed a desire to hear the whole symphony.43

The following month, Felix Weingartner took the Berlin Philharmonic to Hamburg to premiere the movement there; a month later (January 20 and 21, 1897), Nikisch conducted it in Leipzig. In both places it was enthusiastically received by audiences and critics.44

Mahler's feelings about having the movement presented by itself were mixed. He wrote to Richard Batka (a periodical editor):
That this little piece (more of an intermezzo in the whole thing) must create misunderstandings when detached from its connection with the whole work, my most significant and vastest creation, cannot keep me from letting it be performed alone. I have no choice; if I ever want to be heard, I can't be too fussy, and so this season this modest little piece will present me to the public as the "sensuous, perfumed singer of nature." But that this nature hides within itself everything that is frightful, great, and lovely (which is exactly what I wanted to express in the entire work in a sort of evolutionary development)—naturally no one understands that.45

On March 9, 1897, exactly four months after the premiere of the second movement, two more movements were released to the public: the third (the scherzo: "What the animals in the woods tell me") and the sixth (the Adagio: "What love tells me"); the second was also played. Weingartner conducted the orchestra of the Berlin Hofkapelle in Berlin. Fate and the critics were not so kind this time. The second movement was once again applauded, but following the third movement there was quite a lot of booing mixed with the applause. After the sixth movement, the audience was close to unanimous in its booing.46

The critics' comments on the new movements must be placed high on the all-time list of vicious invective—particularly the criticism by Paul Moos of the Berlin Neueste Nachrichten. "Had I retained the smallest spark of hope that anything good still might come from Mahler," he began, "it would now be extinguished forever." The second movement was treated generously. He called it "skillfully made up . . . good-mannered," but "does not contain one original idea." The third movement, Moos continued, "abused the orchestra. . . . Wagner would turn in his grave." And the sixth: "blasphemous . . . verbose, superficial, theatrical, unreal. . . . Mahler is a musical comedian . . . who . . . pretends feelings. . . . Bad, very bad!" The Börsenzeitung's critic was none too generous, either. The third movement was an "insignificant game"; the sixth movement melody a "formless tapeworm," the movement characterized by "vain affection, tiresome and soporific." Even Oskar Eichberg, a Mahler supporter, found the sixth movement too drawn out. One critic, Otto Nodnagel, was able to cite redeeming features. He called the second movement "delicate, graceful, exquisite," the third a "humoresque for orchestra . . . full of insolent humor," in the sixth he found the "sonority somewhat monotonous," but it "sprang from the depths of the soul."47

Fortunately, Mahler was undaunted by the response to the individual movements and proceeded with plans to produce the whole symphony. In 1898 Guido Adler, a musicologist who had grown up with Mahler, was able to get for Mahler a subsidy of 3000 guilders towards the publication of his First and Third Symphonies by Waldheim Eberle in Vienna.48 In May of 1899, Mahler made final revisions in the score of the Third; in July, he and Arnold Rosé carefully added bowings and phrase marks.49

In 1901 Mahler wrote to Richard Strauss in hopes that the latter would be willing to conduct the premiere of the entire symphony. As he put it, "I know of no one other than yourself who would dare to produce this monster."50 Tentative plans were made for a performance in Berlin late that year. However, there were problems with the hall, with programming, and other matters, and the production failed to materialize.51

The following year, Mahler tried again and succeeded. A performance was scheduled for the summer at the Krefeld Festival of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein. Rehearsals were held in Gürzenich. When Mahler first heard his first movement played by an orchestra (in the first rehearsal) he laughed and exclaimed, "And he saw that it was good!"52 He discussed with his new wife Alma each movement after hearing it in rehearsal.53

The long-awaited premiere occurred on June 9 with Mahler conducting. The response was like nothing he had known before. His wife describes the scene:
A tremendous ovation broke out at the end of the first movement. . . . The enthusiasm rose higher with each movement and at the end the whole audience got up from their seats in a frenzy and surged to the front in a body.
Alma's own response:
I was sitting among the audience by myself, as I did not wish to be with my relations. I was in an indescribable state of excitement; I cried and laughed softly to myself and suddenly felt the stirrings of my first child. The hearing of this work finally convinced me of Mahler's greatness, and that night I dedicated to him my love and devotion with tears of joy. I saw what hitherto I had only surmised.54
But all was not well. Alma tells that Richard Strauss, who at the end of the first movement came to the stage to applaud emphatically, became "more and more subdued" as the symphony continued and was not to be seen at the end. That evening, at an inn, he passed Mahler's table with little more acknowledgement than a nod. This hurt Mahler very much: it put him in bad spirits "and the public acclamation now seemed of no account."55

The episode with Strauss, however, quickly blew over. What remained was what Mahler had previously not fully realized: a reputation as a great composer. Walter says, "From that day on, other conductors became interested, they performed his work, he was an accepted composer. . . . It established him definitely in the world of contemporary music."56

Well, not everyone was thrilled with the symphony. Following the Vienna premiere of the work, the critic Felix Salten wrote, "Für so was verdient der Mann ein paar Jahre Gefängnis."57 (Cardus, who quotes the criticism, doesn't give a translation, but it means roughly, "For such as this, the man deserves a few years imprisonment.")

A few interesting developments involving the symphony took place after its premiere. One is the preparation of "program notes" by Mahler. His little guide to the symphony includes a thematic index to the second movement and, incredibly, is entitled "Symphony in F major"!58

In 1906 Universal Edition published pocket scores to the First through Fourth Symphonies; Mahler granted them full publishing rights in 1909.59

And one last sobering note before proceeding to analysis. Mahler died in Vienna on May 18, 1911; Julius Bittner was given by the legal authorities the task of monetarily evaluating Mahler's works. His valuations are given in a document dated November 6 of that year. What of the Third Symphony?
The first four symphonies are subject to an outstanding amount for printing costs of 48,134.77 crowns. These works therefore represent liabilities and are thus valueless.60

Mahler's musical style is unique and clearly identifiable. Some of its general features include use of a very large orchestra in symphonies, but often with only a few instruments playing at a given point—typically mixing solo timbres (sometimes using unusual instruments). He is noted for the immediate juxtaposition of extremely different types of music, running the gamut from rustic folk dances and marches to classic scherzos and sophisticated minuets (as discussed earlier). His movements often use traditional forms, highly modified and expanded; the number of movements in his symphonies varies generally from four to six. His harmonic vocabulary is very wide; earlier works are still common practice, but the later works are borderline with regard to tonality.

The Third Symphony, because of its programmatic character, has a number of special analytical concerns not involved in many Mahler works. Some of these will be examined in the upcoming discussion.

Mitchell observes that the Third "embodies Mahler's most far-reaching and thorough-going upgrading of the wind [section]," and is "both symbol and agent of the changing character of orchestral sound that was in train at the turn of the nineteenth century."61

The harmony in the symphony is only slightly less diatonic than that of the earlier symphonies (the "intellectual" fourth movement is the most harmonically advanced).

Melodies are long, and harmonic rhythm is slow (virtually required in a symphony that lasts ninety-five minutes). McGrath and Cardus both cite a melodic-rhythmic motive, roughly
(scalar up and down).

This is called the life-will motive.62

There is another rhythmic motive:
Schnebel sees the interval of a fourth as an organizing element in the themes.63

Whether the symphony is formally unified is a controversial issue. Of course, the program is a unifying device; so is Mahler's division of the symphony into a First Part (first movement) and a Second Part (second through sixth), but this division, even if partially justifiable by relative durations, is essentially dependent upon the program. Walter still believes that "in it [the Third] alone the movements follow a determined sequence of idea,"64 and de La Grange says, "Examining the symphony as a whole, [Mahler] suddenly realized that unintentionally he had used the classic musical forms created by Mozart and Haydn and later expanded by Beethoven."65 This, however, says nothing about the overall form of the symphony. Mitchell says Mahler's early symphonies are really "the symphonic poem and the symphony, inextricably mixed together."66 Perhaps Mahler should be considered the final authority. If so, any assertion of tight overall construction is very much in question. "That I call it a symphony is really incorrect," he says, "as it does not follow the usual form. . . . I create my own original forms of expression, even if I am in perfect control of my technique."67 And finally, "The great unity of movements which I dreamed of has come to nothing. Each of them is sufficient unto itself."68

The first movement is a very long piece, apparently in a modified sonata form. The introduction (Pan awakes) is dominated by a powerful horn call that Křenek has identified as "a patriotic marching song well known to all Austrian school children."69 The entire movement is dominated by marches (appropriate to the title "Summer marches in"). Even though Cooke found the movement "a total formal failure"70 and even Walter admitted "one perceives . . . that there is no internal connection,"71 Schnebel was able to describe the form by dividing the movement into parts, and each of them into sections, thus:
I. 1. aggressive march
    2. dissonant climax
II. 1. panicky cries and paralyzing lamentations
     2. retreat to calm
III. 1. lamenting and consoling speeches
      2. merry, all-embracing march ending in jubilation72

The second (flower) movement, which Mahler, as noted earlier, considered essentially an interlude, is a minuet (or rather a set of minuets, since the tempo changes constantly). Mahler called the movement a set of "variations." "Rather than a continual development of the same sequence of notes," he explained, "mine are decorative variations, arabesques, and garlands woven around the theme."73

The mood of the third movement, which is based on the Wunderhorn song "Ablösung im Sommer," is described by Mahler as "scurrilous and tragic."74 The song is basically a dialogue between a C-minor theme (the "cuckoo" theme) and one in C major (the "nightingale"). The song is first stated almost literally, then developed extensively, spending much time in the subdominant (F major-minor) area. There are two long solos for the posthorn: quiet 6/8 melodies providing respite from the otherwise constant busy motion. Mahler indulges in a bit of humor here in such things as having the nightingale theme played fff by the horns.75 Schnebel notes Mahler's "new compositional techniques. Instead of binding together differing musical processes through transition, he lets one run on and gradually blend into the next."76 Smith comments on the procedure of quoting material (the Wunderhorn song, then developing it, as is done here: "The composer once expressed satisfaction that movements so derived emerged as quite orthodox from a formal standpoint. In other words, if their genesis were not known it would not be suspected."77 As for Mahler's use of polyphony, featuring widely differing themes in counterpoint with one another, one is reminded of Ives. Mahler must have felt a kinship with him: in 1911 he spied a copy of Ives's Third Symphony in New York, and immediately demanded to take it to Europe to study and possibly perform.78

The fourth movement, "Sehr langsam," is the one in which the Nietzsche poem discussed earlier is set. The movement has a monotonous, lulling effect, which Smith attributes to "an extensive use of pedal point and a restricted vocal compass."79 (Schnebel likened the sound to the music of La Monte Young.80) The low strings open with an undulating figure moving back and forth a major second:

This pattern, reminiscent of the few bars immediately following the horn call opening the first movement, is considered by Newlin the "single germinal motive" of the movement and "the chief structural element of the vocal part."81 The movement uses the "life-will motive" mentioned earlier extensively; as well as another figure, a minor third ascent:
which Cardus calls the "Naturlaut"82 ("nature sound"). The second line of the poem, "Gib acht!" ("Give heed!"), is set to the notes F#–E, degrees three and two of the key, D major. Barford finds this 3–2 motion without tonic resolution to be recurrent in Mahler. He cites the second violins in the opening of the Ninth Symphony and the voice singing "Ewig! Ewig!" at the very end of Das Lied von der Erde. McGrath summarizes the movement: "Musically, the subject of the movement is the dialogue between the life-will motif, the rising and falling theme representing the realm of feeling, and the human voice, the representative of intellect."84

Without a break, the fifth movement begins. It is scored for four flutes (all doubling piccolo), four oboes and English horn, three B-flat and two E-flat clarinets, bass clarinet, three bassoons and contrabassoon, six horns, three F trumpets, three trombones, two harps, percussion including bells tuned to c', d', f', and g', strings minus violins, an alto soloist, a boychoir, and a women's chorus (in three parts). (Mitchell's contention regarding the increasing importance of the winds is certainly supported by this instrumentation.) It is very conventional in terms of harmony and meter, owing to the fact that it is essentially a children's song. Most of it is in a very clear, diatonic F major (it is all in a straightforward 4/4; about the most complicated rhythm to be found is
which, by the way, is present almost all the way through). There is a shift to d minor in the middle, where the alto sings, "And should I not weep, gracious God. I have broken the ten commandments. I go and weep bitterly. Oh, come and have pity on me!" The d minor tonality becomes chromatic as tension builds, but as the childish tragedy is resolved, the tonality moves briefly to B-flat major, then back to F major.

In addition to the Wunderhorn text, the words "Bimm! bamm!" are sung throughout the movement. They are supposed to represent the pealing of bells, and to this end, Mahler made a note in the score that the note should be held on the closed-mouth "mm" sound. The boychoir sings the "bimm-bamms" almost all the way through, save for a small portion before the end, where they sing "Love only God! Heavenly joy is a blessed city, heavenly joy that has no more end! Heavenly joy was prepared by Peter through Jesus and everyone for bliss!" The women's chorus reinforces the "bimm-bamms" in loud sections, but usually sing the main text. Important motives are


The half-note motive is associated with the "bimm-bamms."

The musical representation of heaven at the end is noteworthy in its orchestration. The sonorities used in the final measures are the boychoir in unison, four piccolos (four-part chords), two oboes in the high register, two E-flat clarinets in the high register, an F trumpet, two glockenspiels (each with two notes), two harps in the high register (one with harmonics), women's chorus (three- and four-part chords), and viola and cello harmonics—a scoring that produces a sound of utmost lightness and delicacy.

Schnebel and Gartenberg both find notable contrasts within the movement, even given the overall "children's-song" framework. Schnebel says, "There is . . . solemn recitation, . . . merry rhyme, . . . whining declamation. . . . The music is not exclusively bright, but occasionally sharp and threatening. . . . The childish sensitivity is often thrilled through with black tremors."85 Gartenberg notes "an astounding contrast and paradox, as a delightful, almost naive melody, is accompanied by a sophisticated orchestral body."86

Newlin notes the use of parallel fifths and octaves at cadences, which she characterizes as "carefully calculated naïveté of harmony."87

McGrath alludes to a kind of sonata form: "'Oh come and have mercy' introduces the crucial development of the movement."88 Actually, an ABA' (the d-minor section being the B) seems more accurate.

Whatever the form, Cardus says that Mahler found the length, 120 measures, to be "heavenly."89

The fifth movement proceeds to the sixth without a break. When Mahler made the decision to omit "Das himmlische Leben," he was left with this movement, an adagio, to end the work. He defends this action:

In the adagio, . . . everything is resolved in the calm of existence . . . without at the moment knowing why, and contrary to custom, I have ended my Second and my Third with Adagios, the superior rather than inferior forms of music.90
The movement is scored for four flutes (one doubling piccolo), four oboes, three B-flat and two E-flat clarinets, three bassoons, eight horns, two F and two B-flat trumpets, four trombones, tuba, percussion, and strings.

The movement is largely homophonic (more Bruckner-like than is most Mahler). It is mostly diatonic, the melody being almost like a chorale tune, but in more intense sections, passing chromaticism is introduced. Even though the movement is diatonic, the key center moves frequently (sometimes with each phrase).

The form is hard to pin down: perhaps a monothematic construction with constant development, variation, and ornamentation. Schnebel's opinion is basically that:
The large slow movement is a single, multi-dimensional melody or, otherwise expressed: a single expanding, pulsing stream of sound, which constantly changes, always forms new patterns, and yet always stays the same. . . . The theme of the movement, or better: the structure with which he begins is an Abwandlung [essentially, "inflection": begins the same, then goes its own way] of the motto at the beginning of the symphony.91
The melody, incidentally, is a quotation from Beethoven:



Example 4. Mahler quotation from Beethoven:
     a) Mahler: Symphony No. 3, 6th mvmt.
     b) Beethoven: String Quartet No. 16 in F major, Op. 135, 3rd mvmt.

Cardus finds the harmonies and voice-leading (which lend to the overall key mobility) especially advanced, claiming that the likes of it are not found again until the Adagio of the Tenth Symphony.92

Notwithstanding internal key mobility, the movement begins and ends in D major, a key of "special significance for Mahler."93 More importantly, the symphony begins and ends in D (with a modal change). So unlike most of Mahler's symphonies (even the Second and Fourth), the Third does not exhibit progressive tonality. However, Barford points out that it would have, had Mahler used "Das himmlische Leben" (which ends in E major) as the concluding movement, as originally planned.94

Whatever the form of the movement, there is a sense of tension building to a climax, then relaxation, that is clear-cut to a degree not commonly found in Mahler. It begins with the strings only, playing quietly, diatonically, and homophonically. Tension is increased by the addition of instruments, upward pitch gestures, increasing volume, and addition of some chromaticism. At the climax, Mahler recalls a horn call from a climactic section of the first movement:

(eight horns)

The subtitle "What love tells me" has apparently caused some controversy, for Cardus says, "Though this Adagio tells of 'love,' no flush of eroticism enters; there is no erotic music in Mahler."95 However, the great building and release of tension, in conjunction with the subtitle, must mean something more than the love of mankind. Schnebel agrees: "It includes in its increasing dimension also those sounds of eroticism, as they are found in Wagner's Tristan."96

With a simply noble extended D-major cadence, the movement and one of the longest and most complex symphonies in existence comes to a close.


4th movement
(from Nietzsche's Also sprach Zarathustra)

O mensch! Gib acht!
Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht?
"Ich schlief, ich schlief—
Aus tiefen Traum bin ich erwacht:—
Die Welt ist tief,
Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht.
Tief ist der Weh—
Lust—tiefer noch als Herzeleid:
Weh spricht: Vergeh!
Doch alle Lust will Ewigkeit—
—will tiefe, tiefe Ewigkeit!"

O Man! Take heed!
What does deep midnight speak?
"I was asleep—
I waken from a secret dream:—
The world is deep,
And deeper than the day has known.
Deep is her woe—
Desire—deeper still than heart's pain:
Woe speaks: Perish!
But all desire wants eternity—
—wants deep, deep eternity!"

(Translation by William J. McGrath)

5th movement
(from Des Knaben Wunderhorn)

Es sungen drei Engel einen süssen Gesang;
Mit Freuden es selig in dem Himmel klang,
Sie jauchzten fröhlich auch dabei,
Dass Petrus sei von Sünden frei.

Und als der Herr Jesus zu Tische sass,
Mit seine zwölf Jungern das Abendmahl ass;
Da sprach der Herr Jesus: Was stehst du denn hier?
Wenn ich dich anseh, so weinest du mir!

Und sollt' ich nicht weinen, du gütiger Gott,
Ich hab' übertreten die zehn Gebot.
Ich gehe und weine ja bitterlich.
Du sollst ja nicht weinen! Ach komm und erbarme dich über mich.

Hast du denn übertreten die zehn Gebot,
So fall auf die Kniee und bete zu Gott!
Liebe nur Gott in alle Zeit!
So wirst du erlangen die himmlische Freud.

Die himmlische Freud' ist eine selige Stadt,
Die himmlische Freud', die kein Ende mehr hat!
Die himmlische Freude war Petro bereit't,
Durch Jesum und Allen zur Seligkeit.

Three angels sang so sweet a song,
That heaven rang with joy.
Their message merrily proclaimed
That Peter was free from sin.

And when the Lord Jesus sat at the table,
To dine with his twelve disciples:
Then Jesus asked: Why are you here?
When I see you I must weep!

And should I not weep, you gracious God.
I have broken the ten commandments.
I will go and weep most bitterly.
You should not weep! Oh, come and have mercy on me.

If you have broken the ten commandments,
Then fall on your knees and pray to God!
Love only God at all times!
Then you will reach heavenly joy.

Heavenly joy is a blessed city,
The heavenly joy that has no more end!
Heavenly joy was prepared by Peter
Through Jesus and everyone for bliss.

(Translation by William J. McGrath and Eric Brahinsky)


     1Bruno Walter, Gustav Mahler, trans. Lotte Walter Lindt (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958), p. 29.
     2Philip Barford, Mahler Symphonies and Songs (1970; reprint ed., Seattle: University of Washington, 1971), p. 32.
     3Henry Louis de La Grange, Mahler, vol. 1 (London: Victor Gollancz, 1974), p. 101.
     4William J. McGrath, Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1974), p. 127.
     5Ibid., p. 141.
     6de La Grange, p. 329.
     7P. R. Franklin, "The Gestation of Mahler's Third Symphony," Music and Letters 58 (1977): 441.
     8Ibid., p. 440.
     9McGrath, p. 129.
     10Ibid., pp. 129–30.
     11Walter, pp. 26–27.
     12Ibid., p. 28.
     13de La Grange, p. 376.
     14Dieter Schnebel, "Über Mahlers Dritte," trans. Eric Brahinsky, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 135 (1974): 283.
     15Walter, p. 115.
     16Schnebel, p. 283.
     17Ibid., pp. 283–84.
     18Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters, trans. Basil Creighton (1946; reprint ed., Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1968), p. 36.
     19Ruth Berges, "Mahler and the Great God Pan," Musical Courier 161 (January 1960): 11.
     20McGrath, p. 136.
     21Ibid., p. 132.
     22Walter, p. 128.
     23McGrath, p. 131.
     24Walter, p. 28.
     25McGrath, pp. 133, 135.
     26Walter, p. 129.
     27Ibid., p. 128.
     28Ibid., p. 168.
     29Neville Cardus, Gustav Mahler: His Mind and His Music, vol. 1, ed. Rudolf Schwarz (London: V. Gollancz, 1965), p. 85. He says this is "prophetic of Le Sacre."
     30Walter, p. 134.
     31The First contains music from Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen; the Second and Fourth include complete songs (music and text) from Des Knaben Wunderhorn.
     33Barford, p. 30.
     34McGrath, p. 121. Italics his.
     35Kurt Blaukopf, Gustav Mahler, trans. Inge Goodwin (New York: Praeger, 1973), pp. 122–24.
     36A. Mahler, p. 17.
     37McGrath, pp. 126, 147.
     38Kurt Blaukopf, ed., Mahler: A Documentary Study (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), p. 225.
     39de La Grange, p. 582.
     40Walter, p. 34.
     42de La Grange, pp. 359–60.
     43Ibid., p. 386.
     44Ibid., pp. 386–87, 396.
     45Berges, p. 11.
     46de La Grange, p. 397.
     47Ibid., p. 399.
     48Ibid., p. 465.
     49Ibid., pp. 511, 525.
     50Blaukopf, Documentary, p. 227.
     51de La Grange, pp. 634–35.
     52A. Mahler, p. 37.
     53Ibid., p. 36.
     54Ibid., p. 38.
     55Ibid., pp. 38–39.
     56Walter, pp. 54, viii.
     57Cardus, p. 96.
     58Donald Mitchell, Gustav Mahler: The Wunderhorn Years (Boulder CO: Westview, 1975), pp. 318–19.
     59Blaukopf, Documentary, p. 259.
     60Ibid., p. 273.
     61Mitchell, pp. 330–31.
     62Cardus, p. 106; McGrath, p. 146.
     63Schnebel, p. 284.
     64Walter, p. 128.
     65de La Grange, p. 376.
     66Mitchell, p. 194.
     67de La Grange, pp. 329–30.
     68Cardus, p. 105.
     65de La Grange, p. 376.
     69Dika Newlin, Bruckner, Mahler, Schoenberg, revised ed. (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1978), p. 4.
     70Cardus, p. 95.
     71Walter, p. 129.
     72Schnebel, p. 286.
     73de La Grange, p. 560.
     74McGrath, p. 141.
     75Newlin, pp. 166, 168.
     76Schnebel, p. 287.
     77Warren Storey Smith, "Song Is the Basic Element of the Vast Symphonic Structures Mahler Created," Musical America 80 (February 1960): 174.
     78Mitchell, p. 280.
     79Smith, p. 10.
     80Schnebel, p. 287.
     81Newlin, p. 169.
     83Barford, pp. 30–31.
     84McGrath, p. 142.
     85Schnebel, p. 287.
     86Egon Gartenberg, Mahler: The Man and His Music (New York: Schirmer Books, 1978), p. 285.
     87Newlin, p. 169.
     88McGrath, pp. 149–50.
     89Cardus, p. 108.
     90de La Grange, p. 377.
     91Schnebel, p. 288.
     92Cardus, p. 110.
     93Newlin, p. 179. She continues, "It is the key of energy, of optimism, of high seriousness or of superhuman triumph, or of the utmost love," and cites, in addition to this movement, critical movements from the First, Third and Ninth Symphonies.
     94Barford, p. 32.
     95Cardus, p. 110.
     96Schnebel, p. 288.


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