Nature's Terrors

The Wanderer

Throughout his life, Mahler returned to the natural environment for inspiration.
"My music is always the voice of nature sounding in tone…"
VIDEO:SFS principal clarinet Carey Bell on nature in Mahler’s music

The nature depicted in Mahler's symphonies is not always benign:

  • He wrote about the different facets of nature in his Fourth symphony “Suddenly, to my astonishment, I became aware that I was in a completely different world: as if you had imagined yourself to be wandering in flowery Elysian fields, but suddenly find yourself transported into the midst of the nocturnal terrors of Tartarus, with your blood running cold in your veins.

  • After the sunny exposition of the Fourth’s opening Allegro, the development flirts with the macabre. Mahler breaks up his lyrical ideas into small chunks and tosses them to the corners of the orchestra.

  • In my works there are many traces and emations of such worlds, which excite even in me a sense of horror and mystery. This time, too, it’s the forest, with its marvels and terrors, that dominates me and steals into my world of sound.” Mahler’s demons suddenly scramble into the shadows, and our leisurely promenade takes up where it left off, as if nothing had happened.