Apologies: I have been a bit side-tracked of late and thus it has been a longer gap between movements than I would have hoped. That might partly have been to do with the launch of the 2016 concert season for my current employer, which I will just give a brief plug for because if you’re in Sydney next year, you can actually come and hear the Mahler 4 performed live.
Further Apologies: I posted this yesterday and completely forgot to include the Spotify link. This is now in place.
But back to the tour …
Where We’ve Been: Movement I – a lot of ice skating and other jollity.
This is the Scherzo of the work and as such features a Scherzo theme alternating with a gentler Trio theme. Mahler once supposedly said that this movement was meant to represent Death striking up a tune on the fiddle. (An idea which he apparently got from the Boecklin painting above, which features that extraordinary image of death standing behind the artist with a violin.) As such, you’ll notice that it features a slightly out-of-tune violin. It’s a strange combination – it’s not somber and heavy, but yet there is something decidedly sinister about the main Scherzo theme.
(0:00) Scherzo. French horn, woozy flutes and the creepy violin. The violin is answered by the woodwinds.
(0:44) A drumbeat, a drone, and a hypnotic back-and-forth interlude on the strings, then back into the creepy tune.
(1:33) Trio. A light and bubbly dance tune that starts on the woodwinds (lots of trills). It’s more of the same “children’s music” sound as the first movement. The mood gets dark again …
(2:42) Scherzo. Back to the creepy theme again, the hypnotic interlude like last time, then back to creepy. Have a listen out for the bizarre little kiddy squeals he drags out of various parts of the orchestra on the way through the theme.
(4:43) Trio. The friendly Trio dance. Schmaltzy solo violin at (5:44). Almost turns into chamber music, but then things get dark again … You think you’re about to head into the Scherzo again but instead …
(6:22) … A beautiful version of the Trio dance starts up. (Possibly beautiful because it features high strings. Everything sounds more beautiful with high strings – especially the next movement. This may just be a partiality of mine, though.)
(7:14) Now the Scherzo starts up again. But notice it doesn’t sound quite as creepy this time? Now, its more like a strange friend that we’ve gotten used to. Everything has a lighter touch this time around.
(8:26) Ends with a bunch of shrill little repeated notes, a bit of dark and brooding stuff, before finishing with one last kiddy squeal.