Mahler - Symphony No.6 in A minor "Tragic" - I, Allegro energico ma non troppo. Heftig, aber markigThe Symphony No. 6 in A minor by Gustav Mahler, sometimes referred to as the Tragische ("Tragic"), was composed between 1903 and 1904 (rev. 1906; scoring repeatedly revised). The work's first performance was in Essen, on May 27, 1906, conducted by the composer. Formally, the symphony is one of Mahler's most outwardly conventional. The first three movements are in fact relatively traditional in structure and character, with a fairly standard sonata form first movement (which even includes an exact repeat of the exposition, most unusual in Mahler), leading to the middle movements, one slow, the other a scherzo-with-trios. However, attempts to analyze the vast finale in terms of the sonata archetype have encountered serious difficulties. As Dika Newlin has pointed out: "it has elements of what is conventionally known as 'sonata form', but the music does not follow a set pattern [...] Thus, 'expositional' treatment merges directly into the type of contrapuntal and modulatory writing appropriate to 'elaboration' sections [...]; the beginning of the principal theme-group is recapitulated in C minor rather than in A minor, and the C minor chorale theme [...] of the exposition is never recapitulated at all". The first movement, which for the most part has the character of a march, features a motif consisting of an A major triad turning to A minor over a distinctive timpani rhythm (the chords are played by trumpets and oboes when first heard, with the trumpets sounding most loudly in the first chord and the oboes in the second); this motif, which some commentators have linked with fate, reappears in subsequent movements. The first movement also features a soaring melody which the composer's wife, Alma Mahler, claimed was representative of her; this melody is now often known as the "Alma theme". The movement's end marks the happiest point of the symphony with a restatement of the Alma theme. The andante is a respite from the brutal intensity of the rest of the work. Its main theme is an introspective ten-bar phrase that is technically in E-flat major, though the theme alone can seem major and minor at once. The orchestration is more delicate and reserved in this movement, making it all the more poignant when compared to the driving darkness of the other three. The scherzo marks a return to the unrelenting march rhythms of the first movement, though in a 'triple-time' metrical context. Its trio (the middle section), marked Altväterisch ('old-fashioned'), is rhythmically irregular (4/8 switching to 3/8 and 3/4) and of a somewhat gentler character. Alma's report, often repeated, that in this movement Mahler "represented the unrhythmic games of the two little children, tottering in zigzags over the sand" is refuted by the chronology: the movement was composed in the Summer of 1903, when Maria Anna Mahler (born November 1902) was less than a year old, and when Anna Justine (born July 1904) had not even been conceived. All the same, it is widely accepted by contemporary interpretors and conductors and it is usually in this playful-turned-terror-filled manner that this movement is conducted. The last movement is an extended sonata form, characterized by drastic changes in mood and tempo, the sudden change of glorious soaring melody to deep pounded agony. The movement is punctuated by three hammer blows. Alma quotes her husband as saying that these were three mighty blows of fate befallen by the hero, "the third of which fells him like a tree". She identified these blows with three later events in Gustav Mahler's own life: the death of his eldest daughter Maria Anna Mahler, the diagnosis of an eventually fatal heart condition, and his forced resignation from the Vienna Opera and departure from Vienna. When he revised the work, Mahler removed the last of these three hammer strokes so that the music built to a sudden moment of still, mute pain as its third blow. Some modern performances restore the third strike of the hammer. The piece ends with the same rhythmic motif that first appeared in the first movement, but the chord above it is a simple A minor triad, rather than A major turning into A minor. This ending is one of the most brutal in all music, after the third 'hammer-blow' passage, the music gropes in darkness and then the trombones and horns begin to offer consolation.