Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich conducted by David Zinman
I - Trauermarsch. In gemessenem Schritt. Streng. Wie ein Kondukt: 0:00
II - Stürmisch bewegt. Mit größter Vehemenz: 13:21
III - Scherzo. Kräftig, nicht zu schnell: 28:45
IV - Adagietto, Sehr langsam: 47:29
V - Rondo-Finale. Allegro: 58:17
Mahler's fifth symphony was begun in 1901, after a serious illness: The night between February 24 and 25, Mahler almost died of a severe intestinal bleeding. During his convalescence, he made the schemes of the first movements. The following summer, at the end of June, when he returned to his composing place in Maiernigg he had begun a new life. He was not alone, accompanied by his wife Alma, who replaced his sister Justine as a housewife. Alma could also help her husband in his musical aspect by having extensive knowledge of music. She will be responsible for copying the score of the new symphony. On August 24, the score is finished, interpreting it on the piano in his Häuschen for his beloved wife Alma. Mahler made revisions, not finishing it until the fall of 1903.
Mahler decides to perform the new symphony in the Gürzenich Konzerte cycle in Cologne, with the Vienna Philharmonic, but during rehearsals in September 1904 he decides that he will have to revise the orchestration. In spite of everything, the work is premiered in Cologne on October 18, 1904. But the reaction of the public and criticism is divided. The symphony is published in Germany by Peters, but Mahler begins his interminable corrections that would last until 1909, although Peters refused to publish them.
The first movement consists of a funeral march with two intermediate sections as trios. It begins with a trumpet fanfare that gives way to a military-style funeral march. A second element is added in the form of a sad melody of the cellos following the rhythm of the march. All this first section is repeated in a varied way. The initial fanfare begins the first trio. A violent episode that ends when the initial fanfare and the themes of the march return. A roll of the timpani, following the motif of the fanfare, begins the second trio, which begins with the violins and takes elements of the first theme in varied form. It ends with a crescendo, after which the initial fanfare returns until the trumpet is left alone. In the coda appear elements of the march that are blurring to disappear.
The second movement begins in an agitated and expressionistic way, the violins present a tortured melody that is stopped by the brass. Then the orchestra is totally unstable, until the second theme appears, based on the melody of the second trio of the previous movement. One returns to the agitated atmosphere of the beginning of the movement, being stopped by a wide cantinela of the cellos to which they are adding other elements.
It follows a complicated development where the previous elements are mixed in daring counterpoints, taking the music to a state of growing excitement until the recapitulation with the tortured initial melody of the violins. Then follows quotations of the following subjects and a fight among them begins until it is stopped by a chorale in the form of solemn hymn in two parts, separated by a fanfare. It returns to the initial expressionist agitation that culminates in a climax. Calm returns, ending with the dissolution of the elements of the march. With this movement, ends the first part of the symphony, its most tragic side.
The second part of the work begins with a complicated scherzo, mixed with sonata elements. The themes used are a string of light waltzes derived from the German ländler. A horn call introduces the first waltz, in a style close to Richard Strauss's music. The second waltz is played at a slower tempo. The first one reappears in a development section of the themes. A phrase of the horn precedes the trio.
It begins with an extraordinary pizzicato of the strings with themes derived from the previous ones. Continues with a personal development before returning to the scherzo section in the form of recapitulation. Variations of all the previous sections appear. The dull sound of the bass drum begins the end. The strings first and other instruments later recall one of the elements of the first waltz. The entrance of the horns leads the movement to its end.
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