Gustav Mahler's "The Farewell"

| January 15, 2016

Gustav Mahler’s “The Farewell”

listen to Gustav Mahler’s “The Farewell”, you can find it online and please read the text for “The Farewell”. You can find it on here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Das_Lied_von_der_Erde#6._.22Der_Abschied.22_.28.22The_Farewell.22.29 This is a long and perplexing piece of music, so get comfortable and be prepared to follow the music as carefully as you can over its full duration. Get out some paper and make notes as you go, noting particular changes in instrumentation, atmosphere, intensity, texture and anything else you can pull out of the experience.

Here are the questions I would like you to address in your writing:

• The poem which provides the text to this “symphonic song” seems to be drawn from a kind of fairy tale or mythological scene. What seems to be narrated by the poem, and what is the nature of the “farewell”?

• “The Farewell” is composed for a singer and a very large orchestra with probably nearly 100 musicians. How are these enormous orchestral resources mobilized, and is there anything surprising about the presence of this enormous orchestra and the resulting music?

• This is an unusually long piece of music for a symphonic movement. How does Mahler generate this length? Does the music strike you as very continuous, or broken up into smaller parts, or fragmented? Does the movement seem to create one unified atmosphere, or expressive state? or does it shift or split into separate moments? If so, of what nature, how often, when?

• Does the sheer duration of the music, its length and sustaining, play a significant role in our listening experience? How? Any thoughts on the relationship of this music to time as a human experience? Lived time, musical time, suspended time, etc.

• The final two minutes of the movement dwell on the single word “ewig”, or “forever”. What is being communicated, and how does the music evoke this? Does the piece end in a conventional way, or how would you characterize this ending, and its relationship to the long stretch of music that precedes it?

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