Mahler's 7th Symphony "Song of the Night" (Audio + Score)
pf: New York Philharmonic cond/ Leonard Bernstein 0:00 - Langsam – Allegro risoluto, ma non troppo 21:39 - Nachtmusik I 38:46 - Scherzo 49:19 - Nachtmusik II 1:04:06 - Rondo-Finale Gustav Mahler's Seventh Symphony was written in 1904–05, with repeated revisions to the scoring. It is sometimes referred to by the title Song of the Night (German: Lied der Nacht), which Mahler never knew and certainly would never have sanctioned. Although the symphony is often described as being in the key of E minor, its tonal scheme is more complicated. The symphony's first movement moves from B minor (introduction) to E minor, and the work ends with a Rondo-Finale in C major. Thus, as Dika Newlin has pointed out, "in this symphony Mahler returns to the ideal of 'progressive tonality' which he had abandoned in the Sixth". The complexity of the work's tonal scheme was analysed in terms of "interlocking structures" by Graham George. The harmonic and stylistic structure of the piece may be viewed as a depiction of the journey from dusk till dawn.The piece evolves from uncertain and hesitant beginnings to an unequivocal C major finale, with its echoes of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: indeed, at the premiere the overture to this opera was performed after the symphony. This journey from night to day proceeds via an extraordinary third movement scherzo, marked schattenhaft (shadowy), which may have been what prompted Arnold Schoenberg to become a particular champion of the work. The abundance of themes based upon the interval of a fourth has parallels with the First Chamber Symphony. The piece has several motifs in common with the Sixth Symphony, notably the juxtaposition of major with minor chords, the march figure of the first movement, and the use of cowbells within certain "pastoral" episodes. Mahler conducted the premiere of his Seventh Symphony in Prague in 1908. A few weeks later he conducted it in Munich and the Netherlands. Both the audience and the performers at the premiere were confused by the work, and it was not well received. It remained for a while as one of Mahler's least appreciated works, often accused of incoherence. More recently, scholars and conductors have experimented with a range of interpretations of the work, especially the tempo of the finale, and the work has thrilled more audiences worldwide and has since become more popular. PERSONAL NOTE: This one is a tough nut to crack, and took me a few listens before I began to appreciate it. To me, the symphony has a very raw sound, as if it was composed by Mother Nature herself. It's one of those works that you have to try to listen to "at face value", without any pre-conceptions. In any case, there are some stunning parts to in this work, and I definitely think it should be given a chance along with all of Mahler's other output.