Sounds of the Night

In the City of Music

The many folk traditions Mahler encountered gave him a rich source of songs, dances, and legends.
“The Bohemian music of my childhood home has found its way into many of my compositions.”
VIDEO:SFS Principal Trumpet Mark Inouye on Mahler
  • The second and fourth movements of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony are marked “Night Music” (Nachtmusik), and the entire work is sometimes called Song of the Night. In the fourth movement, Mahler evokes the tradition of a nocturnal serenade as if recalled through the haze of memory.

Mahler's Methods

Birds in Flight
  • This cinematic passage from the second movement of the Seventh Symphony starts with a passage of woodwind solos, built from stylized versions of bird calls. Imagine how the approach of the night watch (in tuba and bassoon) agitates a flock of birds at night: they noisily take flight and scatter; then all is quiet again.

Related Examples
Plucks and Twangs
  • In the second “Night Music” of the Seventh Symphony, Mahler brings mandolin and guitar into the ensemble, marrying the unmistakable sound of a lover’s serenade to the symphony orchestra. Like sparkles of moonlight on a dark surface, these plucked sounds stand out against the otherwise dark colors employed in this movement.

Related Examples
The Lullaby
  • The rocking motion of a lullaby, a cradle song, is the ironic background to a father’s remembering his daughter in "When Your Mother Comes Through the Door" (Wenn dein Mütterlein) from the Songs on the Deaths of Children (Kindertotenlieder): "When your mother comes through the door with the shimmering candle, it seems to me you always come in with her, scurrying behind just as before, into the room. Oh you, the too quickly, too quickly extinguished happy glow of your father's cell!"

Related Examples