Symphony No. 3 1899 | 100 mins
According to Gustav Mahler, a symphony should to be like the world—it must embrace everything. That said, let’s take a brief look at the musical world Mahler left us in his Third Symphony.
Part I: Introduction. We start with magnificent gaiety, but fall at once into tragedy—we hear see-sawing chords, drumbeats of a funeral procession, cries and outrage. The whole first movement is the conflict of dark and bright; the light triumphs. Part II: Tempo di menuetto. This movement features shorter character pieces. Delicately sentimental music contrasts with slightly sinister energy sources. Comodo, Scherzando, not rushed. Mahler draws on one of his own songs about waiting for Lady Nightingale to sing when the cuckoo is through. Very slow, misterioso. Low strings rock along with the harps. A human voice intones the Midnight Song from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra—imagine each of its eleven lines as coming between two of the twelve strokes of midnight. Sprightly and audacious. The music surges forward and abruptly changes into a world of bells and angels. Text from German folk poems is interjected by “Du sollst ja nicht weinen” (“But you mustn’t weep”). A children’s chorus joins the ensemble. Very slow, and with great inner feeling throughout. Mahler felt that his decision to end his symphony with an adagio was one of the most special he ever made. The immense final bars are intoned by thundering kettledrums. We’ve reached the end of this most riskily and gloriously comprehensive of Mahler’s worlds.