Mahler created melodic lines out of simple cells that lend unity to a large structure. He often built on this basic "musical DNA" in a seemingly endless series of elaborations and variations.
Mahler often lets us in on the creation of a lyrical idea by giving us the first two notes of a phrase, then three, and eventually the whole musical thought. In this piano introduction to a song on a poem by Fredrich Rückert, "I am Lost to the World" (Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen), this sequence evokes the quality of introspective thought.
Many of Mahler’s most gripping slow movements combine rondo with variation form. Every time the theme returns, it is elaborated, ornamented, extended, or combined with a countermelody or even a variation of itself. In this way, themes that are already very powerful when first stated, reach ever higher degrees of intensity. In the Tenth Symphony, this mode of expression reaches its greatest realization.