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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 Play within a Play”

“A Play within a Play”

Games of Closure and Contingency in the First Movement of the Fourth

(p.139) Chapter Five “A Play within a Play”
Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

Seth Monahan

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on Mahler’s explicitly “classicist” sonata, the opening of the Fourth Symphony. After demonstrating the many parallels of design between this movement and the opening of the Sixth, its focus shifts to the tension and interaction of two distinct “levels” of plot: the sonata narrative that is coextensive with the movement and the transsymphonic story that begins here but which culminates several movements later, with the song-finale “Das himmlische Leben.” Ultimately, we find that all of the sonata’s most salient anomalies, detours, and ruptures derive from what Paul Bekker called the “preparation and gradual clarification” of the finale’s Uridee. This in turn suggests that within the Fourth Symphony’s program as a whole, the opening movement’s sonata form might be understood as a kind of dispensable generative matrix, one whose deeper purpose is to open a proleptic window onto the symphony’s transcendent telos.

Keywords:   Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, program, Sonata Theory, Das himmlische Leben, Paul Bekker

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