The Wanderer

Mahler’s Jewish heritage gave him both specific musical sources and an ear for the outsider’s voice.
“Always an intruder, never welcomed…”
VIDEO:SFS Principal Trumpet Mark Inouye on Mahler's score markings
  • Mahler's ongoing introspection is revealed in the fourth movement of his Third Symphony, which is a setting of the Midnight Song from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra (Also sprach Zarathustra: "Oh man, take heed! What does deep midnight say?" Each of its eleven lines is to be imagined as coming between two of the twelve strokes of midnight. Mahler instructs the players to keep the music pianississimo (extremely soft).

Mahler was quite taken by the philosophy of Nietzsche in the early 1890s. "In the last few weeks I have been reading something so remarkable and strange that it may very well have an epoch-making influence on my life," he wrote to a friend in 1891. At one point Mahler titled the entire Third Symphony after Nietzsche's The Happy Science.

Mahler's Methods

Down with Programs!

In spite of Mahler's frequent extra-musical references, he was leery of assigning a specific "program" to his music. About the titles he originally gave the movements of his Third Symphony, he wrote: “Those titles were an attempt on my part to provide non-musicians with something to hold on to and with a signpost for the intellectual, or better, the expressive content of the various movements and for their relationships to each other and to the whole. That it didn’t work (as, in fact, it could never work) and that it led only to misinterpretations of the most horrendous sort became painfully clear all too quickly. It’s the same disaster that had overtaken me on previous and similar occasions, and now I have once and for all given up commenting, analyzing all such expediencies of whatever sort.”

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