Tracks ## 1-102, 101-102
Symphony no 5 in C sharp minor
Ensemble: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Country: Vienna, Austria
Venue: Jesus Christ Church, Berlin, Germany
Recording Date: 2/1973
Tracks ## 103-107
Kindertotenlieder (Songs On The Death Of Children)
Performer: Christa Ludwig (Mezzo Soprano)
Ensemble: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Country: Vienna, Austria
Recording Date: 1975
========= from the cover ==========
For all Mahler's initial despair of his new symphony it is one of his richest creations. Its broad tripartite structure-two-part funeral march, scherzo, adagietto and finale - embraces and reconciles opposing worlds of grief and frenzy, longing and joy: worlds buttressed and joined by the mellower Arcadian moods of the work's middle movement. To find a work of art so powerfully divided against itself and yet so harmonious we must turn to Shakespeare, no less, and the miracle of A Winter's Tale.
Mahler began work on the symphony in his holiday retreat at Maiernigg in the summer of 1901. They were fruitful times for him. In November 1901 he met Alma Schindler whom he married the following March. It was a marriage made perfect in the symphony which held for Alma not only 'the relation of adult man to everything that lives' but also the very spirit of Mahler himself. Yet understandable as Alma's feelings were, the Fifth Symphony is arguably the first of Mahler's symphonies to achieve a measure of that impersonality which all great art aspires to. Not that the work is less Mahle-risch than anything that has gone before. All things remain grist to the mill of his imagination. The fantasy, the painting from nature, the frenzy and the tragic preoccupations, which we find in Das kla-gende Lied and the first four symphonies, remain strongly in focus as part of the evolving drama. Kurt Blaukopf has compared Mahler's symphonic output to Balzac's Comedie humaine; perhaps a closer analogy would be the Roman-fleuve in the Proust style: material dream-like and realistic by turns, elusive and psychologically complex, luminously ordered and absorbed in a continuously unfolding pattern.
The Fifth Symphony marks the beginning of a new and purer phase in Mahler's orchestral writing. Textures are less solid, less pianistic; there is a new economy of detail (here and in the first three Kindertotenlieder which date from the same period) brought about by Mahler's new preoccupation with instrumental timbre and polyphonic tex-turing. We have only to listen to the jubilantly ordered finale of the symphony, or (in tragic vein) to the opening movements of both symphony and Kindertotenlieder, where a single oboe phrase can point a world of sorrow, to recognize the nature of the miracle Mahler was working.
Symphonically the work is more closely argued than anything Mahler had hitherto achieved. It is a remarkable fibrous growth, so lucid and, in practice, so complex that analysis founders in front of it. The work begins with an eerie summons: a trumpet call in C sharp minor (the same sound we hear at the tragic disintegration of the Fourth Symphony's first movement) full of foreboding. In effect, the first movement is a muted funeral lament (in C sharp minor and later in A minor) juxtaposed with outbursts which are full of Faustian yearning. The end of the movement, rich in strange sea changes, is barely an ending. The music breaks vehemently out, destructive energy now in the ascendent, at the start of the second phase of the drama. Already Mahler has established the leap of a minor ninth in the music (in the Faustian outburst and in the A minor threnody of the first movement); now we hear it as a panic cry on high woodwinds. And moments later, as the strings strive onwards, locked within the compass of a rising semitone, the horns take up the idea too. Later in the movement it recurs, jaunty and desperate on woodwinds, and in the abortive trumpet-led climax moments afterwards. The D major chorale, the symphony's "crossbeam", which rises like Proteus from the waves, almost lays its troubled spirit; but the nightmare returns. The end of the movement is full of eerie sounds, the wailing ninth well to the fore. A single, solemn pianissimo drum tap ends the agony.
And then the mood is marvellously transformed. The scherzo, with its horn obbligato and steady lilting tread is free of terror. In the trio the horn calls evoke the splendour of a romantic past; after that the waltz returns, more libidinous than ever. As Neville Cardus once remarked "Mahler didn't 'murder' the Landler; he ravished it and got it with child". The Adagietto, the prelude to the joyful finale, is a richly sung meditation for strings and harp. " I have died to the world's frenzy", says the Ruckert poem to which the music alludes. "I live alone in my Heaven / In my love, in my song." The ecstatic switch from F major to G flat major midway through the movement is interesting; again the rising figure seems to look back, through the horn call that launches the scherzo, to the all-pervasive leaping ninth. But the music also looks forward, bearing riches which the finale will all too joyfully seize and transform.
The finale is as joyous as the finale of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony. The horns blow an A (now the dominant of D rather than the mediant of F major), the bassoon quotes a phrase from Mahler's song "In Praise of Higher Understanding" and in one effortless glide the allegro giocoso is launched. In it the "higher understanding", elements of fugue and counterpoint, are used in tumbling profusion, free of academic inhibition. (In the song the donkey awards the singing prize to the cuckoo, not the nightingale, thus compromising his critical reputation!) The mood is rich, extrovert and genial. Towards the end darkness does briefly threaten, but the music moves on its way again, the woodwinds gambolling and the strings caressive, with a vibrance and a sonority that Mahler never surpassed. The crossbeam returns (no religious chorale, more a gesture of supreme fulfilment) and the symphony ends in a blaze of wonderment - atrue Song of the Earth.
The Kindertotenlieder, Songs on the Death of Children, begun in 1901 and completed in 1904, were first heard in Vienna in January 1905 with the baritone Friedrich Weidemann as soloist. The songs outraged Alma Mahler. "Ruckert did not write these harrowing elegies solely out of his imagination . . . For heaven's sake don't tempt Providence!" But Providence was tempted. Within three years Mahler had lost his eldest daughter, adding one more grief to a life already horrific with personal loss. Yet these plaintive, lamenting songs embody grief; they do not luxuriate in it. As in the Fifth Symphony, which they movingly complement, there is here a masterful economy in the writing of vocal and instrumental lines and in the deployment of orchestral colour. Indeed, not since Wagner's Tristan und Isolde had music of such poignancy and rare expressive intensity been written for voice and orchestra.