Anyone who enjoyed the two Mahler extracts that I put in last night’s little posting might be interested to know — if they don’t already! — a curious fact about the second one, which comes from the finale of Mahler’s First Symphony, first performed in 1889.
Something that I mentioned in passing in my new article — you remember: the one that’s due out in a few days’ time! — is the way Mahler seems to have been influenced by another composer in the way he started that slow and extended theme. As I say, I didn’t make a big deal about it in my article — I spent about a dozen words on it, as I was on the way to making a point about something else — but I do think it’s worth ‘flagging up’ here as one of quite a few moments in Mahler where he shows a certain ‘indebtedness’ to a work by someone else.
The ‘someone else’ he borrows from on this occasion is Frédéric Chopin (1810-49); and the particular piece he appears to have had at the back of his mind is the Nocturne in E major, Op. 62 No. 2, which was written in 1846.
I should point out that I’m not claiming to have made any kind of discovery here. This resemblance is well known among Mahlerians, and I myself have been aware of it since I was a schoolboy, thanks to Donald Mitchell’s splendid book Gustav Mahler: The Wunderhorn Years, which had been out for about six or seven years when I first read it in the early 1980s.
I probably wouldn’t be making such a meal of the relation now, were it not for the fact that, while I was finishing that article, I happened to mention the Chopin in a Mahler-related space on ‘social media’ — and someone replied that they couldn’t hear any connection. See if you can. (Remember: it’s only the opening phrases that are similar…)
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