Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas by Seth Monahan

By Seth Monahan

Why might Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), modernist titan and so-called prophet of the recent track, devote himself repeatedly to the venerable sonata-allegro type of Mozart and Beethoven? How may possibly so proficient a symphonic storyteller be interested in a framework that many have brushed off as antiquated and dramatically inert? Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas deals a amazing new tackle this previous problem. certainly, it poses those questions heavily for the 1st time. instead of downplaying Mahler's sonata designs as distracting anachronisms or risk free groundplans, writer Seth Monahan argues that for a lot of his occupation, Mahler used the interior, goal-directed dynamics of sonata shape because the foundation for a few of his such a lot gripping symphonic stories.

Laying naked the deeper narrative/processual grammar of Mahler's evolving sonata corpus, Monahan will pay specific recognition to its recycling of large-scale rhetorical units and its constant linkage of tonal plot and have an effect on. He then units forth an interpretive framework that mixes the visionary insights of Theodor W. Adorno-whose Mahler writings are tested right here lucidly and at length-with components of Hepokoski and Darcy's well known Sonata concept. What emerges is a tensely dialectical snapshot of Mahler's sonata varieties, person who hears the genre's compulsion for tonal/rhetorical closure in complete collision with the spontaneous narrative wishes of the encircling tune and of the overarching symphonic totality. it's a perform that calls forth sonata shape now not as a inflexible mildew, yet as a dynamic process-rich with old resonances and topic to an unlimited variety of issues, curtailments, and catastrophes.

With its professional stability of riveting analytical narration and considerate methodological mirrored image, Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas can provide to be a landmark textual content of Mahler reception, and one who will gift students and scholars of the late-Romantic symphony for years yet to come.

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Extra resources for Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

Sample text

For these reasons, the sonatas of 1905–11 play only a marginal role in what follows. But even to recognize this stylistic shift is to bring a host of new research questions to light. Setting aside 7/I as a transitional work, we might still ask: Are there reasons to consider the last three sonatas as a coherent group? Might there be deeper links between 8/I—which preserves many of the traditional rhetorical markers of sonata form—and the equally tonic-fixated slow movements 9/I and 10/I? To what extent do these last two movements draw on the tonal or thematic processes of Mahler’s earlier (non-sonata) symphonic Adagios?

Recomposition and Plot Types One of my aims in this chapter—and in the book at large, of course—is to illuminate Mahler’s dialogue with sonata-form convention, to show how century-old tonal imperatives might be heard to underwrite his expansive musical dramas. But there are other, equally revealing exchanges to listen for as well: his works’ dialogues with one another. By the time of the Third Symphony (1896), Mahler had already begun to revisit and rework the organizational strategies of his earlier sonatas.

Turning Point: The Seventh Symphony and Beyond These productive correlations of sonata process and expressive/programmatic design are consistent throughout Mahler’s early maturity, reaching their high-water mark in the Sixth Symphony (1904), the composer’s most emphatically “classicist” work and one in which his dialogue with traditional forms comes into sharpest relief. There, as Chapters 4 and 7 argue, the central teleology of the Enlightenment sonata—the tonal/cadential resolution of S—rises to the level of a work-spanning “program” in its own right, anchoring the symphony’s overarching tragic drama.

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