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Symphony No. 1, in D Major

Gustav Mahler
(1860-1911)



1. Langsam schleppend.

2. Kräftig bewegt.

3. Feierlich und gemessen.

4. Stürmlich bewegt.

Mahler's First Symphony was finished in 1888 and was first performed at Budapest under the composer's direction. The various movements were thus described on the original program: I. Spring and no end. II. Mosaic. III. Under full sail. IV. The Hunter's funeral procession.

The first movement opens with an introduction which is intended to describe the awakening of Nature at early dawn. The cuckoo's song is heard in the clarinets and there are distant trumpet calls. A subject for the cellos and double basses leads into the main movement, the theme of which, given out in the cellos and double basses is a song of the composer's, written some time before. After the working up of this material and the reappearance of part of the introduction a new theme appears in the horns, followed by another in the cellos. Development is followed by a crescendo and this leads to a recapitulation, closing the movement.





The second movement is largely constructed out of a theme announced in the woodwinds. After the Trio there is a passage for violins and cellos, and the movement closes with a return of the first theme.

The third movement, a dead march, opens with muffled drums, followed by a subject taken from an old French canon and given out in the double basses. The oboe next takes up the theme, followed by tuba and clarinet, and during the playing of the latter the oboe enters with a counter theme. It next appears as a canon for flutes, English horn and clarinets. After a retard, the oboes enter with a new theme, a counter theme appearing in the trumpets, followed by a passage for bass drums and cymbals. A change of key ensues and introduces a folk song in the first violins. The principal subject now returns and after development, the movement closes.

The last movement opens "Stürmisch" in full orchestra, after which a theme heard in the first movement returns, which is worked up in most strenuous fashion, leading to a new passage for first violins. Parts of the introduction again appear and the movement grows more and more "stürmisch." After most elaborate development, a vigorous crescendo leads to a climax, and the end is reached in a massive display by full orchestra.





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