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1894 – Mahler Symphony No. 2


1894 Gustav Mahler Symphony No. 2
Instrumentation Strings, 4 flutes (doubling picc.), 4 oboes (2 doubling C.A.), 3 clarinets (1 doubling bass), 2 Eb clarinets, 4 bassoons (2 doubling contra)  10 horns (incl. 4 offstage), 10 trumpets (incl. 4 offstage), 4 trombones, tuba, 2 harps, organ and extensive percussion, soprano and alto soloists plus choir
Movements IAllegro maestoso. Mit durchaus ernstem und feierlichem Ausdruck (With complete gravity and solemnity of expression) IIAndante moderato. Sehr gemächlich. Nie eilen. (Very leisurely. Never rush.). IIIIn ruhig fließender Bewegung (With quietly flowing movement). IVUrlicht (Primeval Light). Sehr feierlich, aber schlicht (Very solemn, but simple) VIm Tempo des Scherzos (In the tempo of the scherzo)
Overview Mahler was a very well known as a conductor in Austria by the time he wrote the second symphony and throughout most of his life he had to compose mostly in the summer when he was less busy conducting. The premieres of both his first and second symphonies were disastrous in that they were very badly received, particularly by critics. Mahler would not achieve the respect as a composer that he now receives until after his death.

See full score / Watch on Youtube

B) Development of first movements The first movement of Mahler’s second symphony is nearly 25 minutes and it shows a typically Romantic approach to sonata form in that it contains huge contrasts and drama. The stormy C minor opening gives way briefly to a quiet and lyrical second subject in B major. This very short second subject gives way to a written-out repeat/development of the opening material back in stormy C minor. Only ever brief relief from the gloom. At the end of the written-out repeat we have second subject in C major briefly and at the end the optimistic A major subsides back into gloomy C minor.
F) Development of the Orchestra Mahler uses vast forces in this piece as can be seen above including at least eight brass players offstage. Mahler is trying to express an epic journey from the anguished cries at the beginning to the triumphant orchestral and choral conclusion. Mahler once said that “a symphony must be like the world, it must contain everything” and orchestrally he seems to be trying to achieve this at the end of work as the orchestra is supplemented by organ, choir, tubular bells etc.

Watch the end of Mahler 1 on Youtube.