Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Korstvedt, Benjamin M. “Mahler’s Bruckner, between Devotion and Misprision.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 70 (Summer 2017): 357-432.

Gustav Mahler’s significant revisions to Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony amount to what Harold Bloom calls “creative misprision,” demonstrating Mahler’s self-understanding of Bruckner’s influence on his work. Publicly and privately, Mahler had a complicated relationship with the older Bruckner. Mahler’s conducting score and the orchestral parts used for his performance of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony reveal significant changes to the text that went far beyond the standard of the time. He started with Bruckner’s 1888 final version and throughout the work altered orchestrations and cut around fifteen minutes, including nearly one third of the final movement. Major moments in Bruckner’s score were also altered or removed entirely, including both appearances of the fortissimo theme in the finale—precisely the section with the greatest stylistic influence on Mahler. These revisions can be understood by Bloom’s theory of influence, particularly the concept of misprision: the act of alleviating the anxiety of influence by creatively altering earlier works. Other indications of Mahler’s anxiety of Bruckner’s influence include his unease at charges of the similarity between his music and Bruckner’s. The similarities between passages in the scherzos of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 3, as well as the similarities between the opening themes of the Adagios of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9, suggest a creative influence that Mahler was intent on publicly minimizing. Acknowledging this influence helps to recontextualize both Mahler’s and Bruckner’s positions in music history.

Works: Bruckner, Mahler (revisor): Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major, WAB 104 (367-98, 416-425); Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major (407-8), Symphony No. 9 (409-11), Symphony No. 5 (411-12)

Sources: Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major, WAB 104 (367-98, 416-425), Symphony No. 3 in D Minor, WAB 103 (407-8), Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, WAB 109 (409-11), Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, WAB 105 (411-12)

Index Classifications: 1800s, 1900s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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