MAHLER'S Symphonies II, III and IV represent a symphonic trilogy reflecting the composer's struggle for a lasting religious belief and ultimate finding of it in the victory of love and forgiveness over doubt and fear. These works stand in the closest relationship to each other, not only because they share the same philosophical outlook, expressed by similar musical means, but also because in every one of them a poem from Des Knaben Wunderhorn occupies a central position, determining the emotional and religious approach and expressing Mahler's faith in resurrection and eternal life through the power of all-conquering love. In Symphony II this message emanates from the simple words of an ancient song, Urlicht (Primeval Light), and a devotional hymn by Klopstock. In Symphony III it is the cheerful message of a multitude of angelic voices ( 'Es sungen drei Engel einen süssen Gesang') dispelling the introspective gloom of the contralto's solo to words from Nietzsche Zarathustra and announcing to repentant sinners the childlike glories of the celestial city of eternal forgiveness. This child- like dream of plenty and of eternal rejoicing should originally have formed the seventh movement of Symphony III in its first draft. It was eventually replaced by the final Adagio--now the Symphony's sixth movement, a purely instrumental piece--and transferred to Symphony IV, where it now forms the fourth and last movement (the soprano solo 'Wir geniessen die himmlischen Freuden'). This interdependence, especially between Symphonies III and IV, becomes evident from the fact that they share thematic material to a considerable extent. The motives used for the 'celestial joys' in the finale of Symphony IV are anticipated in the angels' song (fifth movement) of Symphony III and occur already in the second movement (tempo di minuetto) at cue 5.

Each work in this symphonic trilogy culminates in a devotional song from the Wunderhorn. In addition, Symphonies II and III contain an instrumental movement based on a Wunderhorn song and


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Bruckner and Mahler


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