The fourth movement of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, the Adagietto, has been his most popular music since its premiere. The music is portrait of Mahler’s love for his new wife, Alma. As the delicate music suggests, Mahler’s conception of earthly love shared the essential qualities of spiritual love.
Mahler also created a musical portrait of Alma in the soaring second theme of his Sixth Symphony. In her memoirs, she recalled: “After he had conceived the first movement, Mahler came down out of the forest and said: ‘I’ve tried to capture you in a theme — as for whether I’ve succeeded, I don’t know. You will have to tolerate it.’”