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Understanding Das Lied von der Erde

IV - Von der Schönheit

Form


0:00~1:36 Introduction and first stanza (G major)
1:36~2:28 Second stanza (E major)

2:28~4:09 Onward rush (G major->C major->C minor->F major)

4:09~7:38 Final Stanza, coda (B-flat major->G major)

Text and translation may be found here:
http://www.recmusic.org/lieder/get_text.html?TextId=20687

The setting, once again in a varied ternary form, uses some pentatonic motifs, but not as prominently as "Von der Jugend". The poem's contrast, between the young women gathering flowers and the young men on horseback, is reflected in Mahler's setting by a change in tempo and mood, from a wistful andante to a galloping allegro, the former lighter textured than the latter, which uses the mandolin to great effect amidst its onslaught of brass. The parallelism of the last line of the middle stanza is reflected by a similar musical setting as well as an immediate a tempo that cuts off the galloping theme midway.

Themes

The gentle opening flute calls of the movement, which develop into the main melody.

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Two variations on an accompaniment figure with pentatonic inflections on the violins.

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When the young men on horseback gallop past, the alto's line rushes breathlessly alongside.

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Analysis

The movement begins lightly with trills on flute and muted violins, stepping in graceful staccato. As the alto enters, the music slows and glances towards G minor, but it quickly turns back into major as the winds enter with pentatonic figures. The opening melody is now varied in the singer's line, and the meter changes freely to reflect its inflections. Another two bars of the introductory trills answer, and the singer begins again, but after a short reply to her line in the piccolo and horns, the key shifts to E major, and the opening trills are now entrusted to the darker-toned clarinets. The melody now slows down, taking the dotted figures of the opening at a relaxed pace, and a solo violin hovers lightly overhead.

The key changes back to G major, but the repetition of the introduction's trills is cut short by a fanfare on muted horns and trumpets, followed by harp glissando and D major pentatonic figures in the winds. The fanfare returns, and this time the orchestra responds in E-flat minor. Now the fanfare is taken up three times in a row, cumulatively by the winds, then the horns, no longer muted, and the trombones. The whole brass and percussion burst out in an unrestrained C major, their fanfares echoing the earlier pentatonic motifs of the winds. The trills of the opening are now replaced in the strings by fast triplets, doubled by a mandolin that adds a subtle folk-like touch. When the alto enters, the orchestra thins out again, but she continues to rush headlong, jumping from C major into A major. The orchestra tries to return to C, but mocking figures in the winds and a sinister variation in the trombones draw it into C minor instead. After this interlude, the singer returns, but now in F major, where the music continues bounding forward until it comes to a sudden stop.

The trills of the opening now return, in their original tempo, in B-flat major, in which key the final line of the middle stanza is set, but along with a repeat of the opening trills in the clarinets, oboe, and piccolo, the music returns to G major once more. The singer now echoes the lazier rubato of the second stanza, and against a gentle staccato figure on the first violins, the melody comes to a close. The instrumental coda swings back and forth between minor and major as the orchestra dissipates, finishing contentedly if not conclusively on a tonic 6/4 chord in cello and harp harmonics backed by flutes.

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