GUSTAV MAHLER (1860–1911)
Symphony No. 1 (1887–88)
Although Mahler provided a “program” for this heart-stopping masterpiece, he later rejected the notion of words being necessary to understand his music. In the published score, the description above the first line was reduced to the words “like a sound of nature.” Things to listen for on this epic symphonic journey include the mysterious awakening of nature; quotations from Mahler’s song cycle Songs of a Wayfarer; and the tune we know as “Frère Jacques,” parodied as an eerie funeral march in the minor mode and played in the upper register of a solo string bass, with steady timpani accompaniment. Mahler created a remarkable work, one so big that it requires augmented orchestral forces. Watch for the seven horn players — bells turned up on their instruments — who proclaim the breathtaking, jubilant finale.