Where We’ve Been: Movement I: epic battle between winter and summer. Movement II: the delicate flowers. Movement III: a wild rumpus of animals.
But now we arrive at a moment of almost perfect stillness.
This movement is based on a very simple concept, but it’s beautifully executed. Mahler took some words by Nietzsche from Thus Spake Zarathustra. In particular, he latched onto some lines about the deep midnight talking. Then, by deliberate repetition of the word “deep” (tiefe) he creates music that sounds, well, deep and nocturnal.
Essentially, it is a call for man to emerge from darkness and pain and it starts to pave the way for the beauty of the last two movements.
(CD 2, Track 1, 0:00)
The whole movement is essentially a 10-minute long aria for alto based over gently rocking deep notes in the low basses. (If you’ve got a good memory, you might recognise this as a nod to the wintery music of the first movement.)
Every now and again, the oboe gives out a strange cry, like a bird at midnight (2:02, for instance). (And depending to what degree the oboist and conductor are adventurous, it can really start to sound like a long bird call.)
O Mensch! Gib acht!
Was spricht, die tiefe Mitternacht?
“Ich schlief, ich schlief -,
Aus tiefem Traum bin ich erwacht: –
Die Welt ist tief,
Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht.
O Man! Take heed!
What says the deep midnight?
“I slept, I slept—,
from a deep dream have I awoken:—
the world is deep,
and deeper than the day has thought.
(Track 2, 0:00)
Tief ist ihr Weh -,
Lust – tiefer noch als Herzeleid:
Weh spricht: Vergeh!
Doch alle Lust will Ewigkeit -,
– Will tiefe, tiefe Ewigkeit!”
Deep is its pain—,
joy—deeper still than heartache.
Pain says: Pass away!
But all joy
—seeks deep, deep eternity!”
(Translation courtesy of Wikipedia.)