CHAPTER XII
SYMPHONIES V, VI, VII AND RÜCKERT SONGS

MAHLER'S three middle symphonies, composed in the short time between 1901 and 1905, and all purely instrumental again represent a closely interrelated group. They seem so utterly different from the preceding Wunderhorn trilogy that it is possible to speak of a fundamental change of style. They are not associated with any kind of programme, they show a common tendency to link up with the traditions of the Viennese classical symphony, and by excluding the human voice they achieve greater structural cohesion. They also contain fewer movements. Their neo-classical tendencies are emphasized by the fact that two of them close with a highly organized rondo-finale applying the variation technique to a very extensive sonata scheme. In Symphony V, for the first time, fugal technique is employed for the purpose of thematic exposition, a turning towards the processes of polyphony that was going to play an important part in Symphonies VIII and IX. Still, in spite of the complete absence of the human voice, these middle symphonies are by no means totally devoid of vocal connotations. While a note-for-note quotation from the first Kindertotenlied crops up in the first movement of Symphony V (11 bars before cue 2), both that Symphony and the seventh clearly display the fertilizing influence of the last two Wunderhorn songs ( Revelge and Tamboursg'sell) in the former's Funeral March and the latter's first 'Nachtmusik'. Symphonies VI and VII are further linked by Mahler's favourite symbol of tragedy darkening the world: the major triad turning into the minor with the effect of a solar eclipse.1 This symbol (foreshadowed in the Funeral March of Beethoven 'Eroica,' twenty bars before the end, and used by Mahler at the end of the first movement in Symphony II, and again in the song Tamboursg'sell) dominates the whole structure of Symphony VI, only to

____________________
1
See Ex. 22.

-198-

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