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Gustav Mahler and the Symphony of the 19th Century

Translated by Neil K. Moran

Constantin Floros

The subject of this book is the semantics of symphonic music from Beethoven to Mahler. Of fundamental importance is the realization that this music is imbued with non-musical, literary, philosophical and religious ideas. It is also clear that not only Beethoven, Schubert and Bruckner were crucial role models for Mahler, but also the musical dramatist Wagner and the programmatic symphony composers Berlioz and Liszt. At the same time a semantic musical analysis of their works reveals for the first time the actual inherent (poetic) quintessence of numerous orchestral works of the 19th Century.
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“It has recently been frequently remarked that a technical analysis of a piece of music achieves nothing and ultimately reveals no more about the actual inner nature of an artwork than that which one already knew at the start of the exercise.”

“Once we have reached the point or we have learned from experience as to which artistic means should be used to achieve a certain spiritual effect, then we have made an important step forward. Thus one will be able to say that the composer expressed in his chosen category a particular thought and that the prevalence of a particular element indicates a particular characteristic. Then we will be able to recognize purely intellectually the nature of an artwork, initially without the involvement of the emotions and the immediate enjoyment of art, thereby establishing a far more objective, universal basis for understanding an artwork. Then the spiritual significance will be added to the technical analysis like a second page.”


It is quite remarkable that the symphonic works of Mahler have been always viewed up to now as distinct from the symphonic tradition of 19th century. Many researchers considered and still hold them to be historically unprecedented. This book demonstrates that this point of view bars the way to a proper understanding of Mahler. A close consideration of Mahler’s symphonies reveals many links to several composers and various movements. They are not only indebted to Beethoven, Schubert and...

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