CHAPTER XIII
THE HYMN OF LOVE: SYMPHONY VIII

IN his eighth Symphony Mahler reverts, on a higher plane of his spiral development, to the programmatic and philosophically motivated symphonic type of his youth. As a reflection of his unceasing struggle with religious problem this Symphony takes up the thread from Symphony II, and with it shares the hymnic choral finale. According to the late Alfred Mathis, an expert on Mahler's music,1 the work was originally planned in four movements:

(1) Hymn, 'Veni Creator'; (2) Scherzo; (3) Adagio Caritas; (4) Hymn, The Birth of Eros. The two instrumental middle movements (one of them a remnant left over from the original draft of Symphony IV) were eliminated and the Eros movement was eventually replaced by the most potent poetical realization of neo-Platonism: the closing scene of Goethe Faust, Part II. Mathis quotes a letter of Mahler's to Alma (dated Munich, June 1910), written during the rehearsals for the first performance of the Symphony, in which he expatiates on the spiritual link between Plato and Goethe:2

. . . In the discourses of Socrates, Plato gives his own philosophy, which, as the misunderstood 'Platonic love,' has influenced thought right down the centuries to the present day. The essence of it is really Goethe's idea that

____________________
1
His plan to write an authoritative volume on Mahler, often discussed with the present writer, was frustrated by his premature death in December 1948. See his two articles on Mahler in the Listener ( February and December 1948), which are utilized here.
2
"See ER, p.450. In an earlier letter ( June 1909) to Alma (cf. ER, p. 430) Mahler had analysed the meaning of the final 'Chorus mysticus' on similar lines.

-211-

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