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Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas$
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Seth Monahan

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199303465

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199303465.001.0001

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“A Demonic Haydn”

“A Demonic Haydn”

Mahler’s Confrontation with Tradition in the First Movement of the Sixth

(p.93) Chapter Four “A Demonic Haydn”
Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

Seth Monahan

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins by considering the possible synergies and frictions among the Sixth Symphony’s dominant reception tropes—those of tragedy, autobiography, and (neo)classicism. It then sets out to explore the many ways in which its opening movement revisits or reenacts aspects of Beethovenian practice, with special interest in its dramatization of the secondary theme’s search for tonic closure. What emerges is a narrative of conflict, failure, and reconcilation, one in which the sonata’s “failed” recapitulation is redeemed by an exuberant tonic-key return of the second subject in the coda. Mapped in detail, this narrative—which hinges on the motivic unity and dramatic antagonism of the work’s suggestively gendered sonata subjects—then provides the basis for a far-reaching reconsideration of the ostensible “domestic” program advanced by Alma Mahler, one that gives due consideration to near-collapse of the composer’s marriage in 1900–1901.

Keywords:   Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, musical autobiography, sonata failure, Alma Mahler, Sonata Theory, failed recapitulation

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