Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Kangas, Ryan R. “Mahler’s Early Summer Journeys through Vienna, or What Anthropomorphized Nature Tells Us.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 68 (Summer 2015): 375-428.

Mahler’s Third Symphony not only programmatically represents the dichotomy between winter and summer but also documents the interconnected urban and rural spheres of fin-de-siècle Austria-Hungary. This interpretation of Mahler’s symphony positions Vienna as the mid-point in Mahler’s working year and connects it to the arrival of summer. Mahler’s visits to Vienna in 1895 and 1896 coincided with local political upheavals concerning the election of Christian Social mayor Karl Lueger. While Mahler typically eschews politics, the mob section of the first movement of the Third Symphony does suggest the mobs in Vienna. A political reading of the symphony is further suggested by the similarities between the opening theme and Wir hatten gebauet ein stattliches Haus by August Von Binzer, which originated with Vormärz liberalism and became associated with socialists in the 1870s. The political valence of the opening theme and the mob section gives moments like the recapitulation extra significance as well: the opening funeral march regains control over the mob. The third movement of the symphony reworks Mahler’s own Ablösung im Sommer and its use of birdsong. Within the symphony, the lines between urban and rural are blurred, suggesting a halfway point between Mahler’s rural composing retreats in Steinbach and the urban polyphony of his professional life. The interruption of the Ablösung material by the post horn fanfare represents not only an intrusion of civilization on nature, but also (in a more literal sense) the arrival of communication (the mail). Personal resonances with Mahler’s biography can also be heard in the symphony. Nature cannot be a true escape from urban life as it is itself a construct of modern society. The true significance of the journey through nature in the symphony is the journey itself.

Works: Mahler: Symphony No. 3 in D minor (388-90, 407-11, 414-20, 420-21)

Sources: August von Binzer (lyrics): Wir hatten gebauet ein stattliches Haus (388-90); Mahler: Ablösung im Sommer (407-11, 420-21); Albert Hiller: Das große Buch vom Posthorn (414-20)

Index Classifications: 1900s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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