Apparently the composition of his first symphony did not come easily to Mahler and the version we know today is the result of revisions over a period of 10 years, and was finally published in 1899. The first of the four movements depicts a series of outdoor effects such as birdsong and contrasting moods of light and shade, tranquillity and turmoil. The second movement is a modified minuet and trio featuring ländler, an Austrian folk dance. The third is like a funeral march, using a form of the Frère Jacques tune and also referencing Mahler’s own Songs of a Wayfarer. The finale begins with what Mahler described as the ‘despair of a deeply wounded and broken heart’. After recalling parts of the first movement, the music moves through episodes of calm, conflict, tumult, finally concludes in a blaze of transcendent victory.
Recorded 8 July 2016, Air Force Museum, Wigram by RNZ Concert.
Engineer: Darryl Stack