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Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 2 – 1st Movement . Analysis by Gerard Schwarz

Video transcript

the totin fire by gustav mahler is a remarkable piece coming at a remarkable time in a remarkable composer and conductors life Mahler had a number of positions in small towns as a conductor at the age of 26 he arrived in letting as the second conductor of the Opera in Leipzig he meant baron karl von Weber Karl phone Weber was the grandson of the great German composer Carl Maria von Weber Carl Maria von Weber was a great composer especially of operas Orianthi Oberon and especially differentiates the freischütz is a magnificent opera the quintessential German opera maybe one of the first of the great operas that in Fidelio of Beethoven and Mahler loved it and he enjoyed very much meeting his grandson and his grandson gave him sketches of an opera called the three pintos the Weber had never finished Mahler took it on and two years later when Mahler was 28 that was premiered in the malla version two three pintos and it was his first great success well something else happened during that time Mahler met four neighbours wife Marian and he fell in love with her and they had his incredible affair that went on for years at the time he was writing the first symphony it was about a hero and a triumphant ending and and then at oten fire that it's a it's a death ceremony or funeral Rite Mahler says that this was now the death of that great hero from the first symphony interestingly he wrote this piece and no one would play it no one would conduct it it was not premiered really until he combined it five years later to be the first moment of the second symphony it's a famous story about Mahler playing this on the piano for the great pianist and conductor hans von Bulow the way Mahler says it if I'm below sat there with his hands over his ears looking down Mahler would look up and fun bullet would look up then he stopped to play again and he put his hands over his ears again and look down and mala would look up and and so forth and when it was over from below said to him if this is music I don't know what music is this is this is not music now it's interesting to note that because when Tchaikovsky showed the first piano concerto now this is the work that fumble premiered showed it to the very great pianist at the time Rubinstein roomers died said it was unplayable it was a horrible piece and he shouldn't should never do this B she should change at all Tchaikovsky to his credit didn't bother to his credit didn't the cotton fire begins with very aggressive tremolo and then mala writes with utmost strength this part for the cellos and basses each skill gets a little bit softer and then there's this long passage for the cellos and basses and every once in a while the tremolo will explode and bassoon contrabassoon will enter to double the double bass and cello line remember this became the first moment of the Second Symphony and like all composers he didn't like all of the programs that we attached to his symphonies even though he himself wrote them and then usually eliminated them but the melody that comes in played by the oboe English horn and clarinet one could consider to be a funeral march so we see this first theme group very clear there's one very poignant moment played by them all the woodwinds upper woodwinds flute oboe and clarinet very touching the second theme is in a contrasting key and it just makes you think of heaven this soft beautiful violin is accompanied by four horns in short order the first theme begins to be developed and he adds new material during that development section eventually the harpes create the transition between this development of the first theme to the restatement of the second theme again by the first violins this time accompanied by two horns but in a very similar elegant gorgeous poetic way and then something new comes in the English horn plays a kind of pastoral setting you can just imagine knowing Mahler and knowing is where it's come that this this is like the shepherd who's calling on the on the cows and no cowbells this time he does that in the later symphonies but the English horn does bring this pastoral feeling and the oboe plays a pastoral soft song iron nets extended a beautiful duet for two horns cello plays the same pastoral motive of the English worn and then the cellos and basses come back in so they play a passage that is reminiscent of the opening soft and it's an accompaniment figure to a very simple new melody played by the English horn and the bass clarinet this new theme played by the English horn and the bass clarinet has developed as one would expect from Mahler and that goes on quite a while and there's a huge climax big cymbal crash and the material gets really wild eventually the second theme is coming back this time it's played by the solo flute accompanied by the two harps the elbow enters Isis a solo violin the trumpets have a little corral but again it's it's a very light-hearted one after all the aggressiveness of the development section to find this kind of subtle beauty as a male that all the time tremendous contrast dynamic contrast orchestration contrast then there's this tremendous outburst of all the strings exactly the same material as from the very beginning of the symphony but it's very short-lived and it leads us to material reminiscent of the accompanying material played by the cellos and basses English horn comes in with little gesture and then this duet I that trumpet and trombone accompanied by flute above tremendous buildup tremendous development leading to huge climax and what mother does at this moment is he makes a little break so this climax comes there's a little stop and then we go again for a couple of bars and then he makes a stop and we go again for a couple of bars and he makes a stop and then we go absolutely wild very excited loud everything everyone is playing and it builds and it builds and it builds in the brass suddenly changed the tempo slightly slower and it brings us back to the recapitulation so there's a big downbeat where a whole orchestra plays timpani puts a roll and then the strings play the opening material that the double basses in cellos play all of the melodies come in every now is condensed the pastoral melody comes in played by the violas and then this is duet between the first and third horn the other horns two through six are also playing but they're just holding single notes then comes the funeral ending with this scale going down by the low strings in a sense it's defending of this hero's life the very end as a little section for the trombones in the fourth trumpet leads to just a series of chords at the end and at the very end the second trumpet and the oboz do but became a very typical male gesture he went from a major chord to a minor chord and then this just a couple of bars he first wrote it fast schnell and this cascading scale by everyone in the orchestra it's done fast then he changed it and he wrote temple one so we do it in that way and then there just two little pizza kados and a little timpani stroke and obviously the great hero has died you