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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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“Tragedy Refuses a Nominalist Form”

“Tragedy Refuses a Nominalist Form”

“Inescapable” Coherence and the Failure of the Novel-Symphony in the Finale of the Sixth

(p.217) Chapter Seven “Tragedy Refuses a Nominalist Form”
Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

Seth Monahan

Oxford University Press

The final chapter shows the infamously dark Finale of the Sixth to be a true tragic narrative, one that is organized around the defeat of a transgression by an order-imposing hierarchy: its “transgressors” are the secondary sonata themes seeking major-mode fulfillment, in defiance of the modal “order” imposed by the A-minor sonata. Here, the classicism thematized by the opening Allegro returns in a hyperbolized form as the central mechanism of repression. Amplifying Adorno’s image of “inescapable” coherence, the essay depicts an organicism run amok, one that denudes each lyrical impulse and imposes a harrowing conformity on all the movement’s materials. With this narrative outline in place, it then revisits the symphony’s “autobiographical” subtext to offer a fundamentally new image of the Finale, one whose “tragic hero” can be taken to be Alma Mahler, rather than the composer himself.

Keywords:   inescapable coherence, Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, sonata failure, Alma Mahler, musical autobiography, Adorno, novel-symphony

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