“A Play within a Play”

Seth Monahan

in Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

Published in print May 2015 | ISBN: 9780199303465
Published online April 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780199395668 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Music Theory

“A Play within a Play”

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This chapter focuses on Mahler’s explicitly “classicist” sonata, the opening of the Fourth Symphony. After demonstrating the many parallels of design between this movement and the opening of the Sixth, its focus shifts to the tension and interaction of two distinct “levels” of plot: the sonata narrative that is coextensive with the movement and the transsymphonic story that begins here but which culminates several movements later, with the song-finale “Das himmlische Leben.” Ultimately, we find that all of the sonata’s most salient anomalies, detours, and ruptures derive from what Paul Bekker called the “preparation and gradual clarification” of the finale’s Uridee. This in turn suggests that within the Fourth Symphony’s program as a whole, the opening movement’s sonata form might be understood as a kind of dispensable generative matrix, one whose deeper purpose is to open a proleptic window onto the symphony’s transcendent telos.

Keywords: Mahler’s Fourth Symphony; program; Sonata Theory; Das himmlische Leben; Paul Bekker

Chapter.  14695 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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