GUSTAV MAHLER (1860-1911)
Revisionism is an unwelcome practice for the purist, but creatives must work out the kinks, sometimes after the public release of their art. So imagine a 13-episode television series subsequently rebroadcasted with only 12, the second episode removed, never seen again for seven decades. Enter intrigue and curiosity, and the story of Gustav Mahler's Blumine, the original second movement of his Symphony No. 1 (1887-1888).
During its initial rollout, the symphony went through several overhauls and three title changes. It was called Symphonic Poem in Two Parts (Five Movements) when it premiered, and its reception was cold. "My friends shunned me after the performance,” Mahler describes, "no one dared to speak to me about it, I went around like some outlaw or contagious invalid." The following two performances still included the Blumine andante but with the symphony renamed Titan, after Jean Paul's 900-page Homeric novel on the life of Albano de Cesara. Finally, after 1894, Mahler dropped Titan from the title (some performances still keep it) and scrapped the second movement, describing it as "insufficiently symphonic," and critics agreed, offering their share of scathing reviews. Though beautiful, the movement didn't fit the other four movements in orchestration and complexity.
Blumine existed pre-Symphony No. 1, as incidental music composed hastily in 1884 for a staged production of Joseph Victor von Scheffel's Der Trompeter von Säkkingen (The Trumpeter from Säckingen). The popular epic poem, later turned opera by Viktor Nessler, was set after the Thirty Years War and focused on the titular trumpeter Werner, challenged to prove his worth and nobility for love. After the excision, Blumine vanished, reappearing in 1959, when literary collector James Marshall Osborn purchased the manuscript for his wife Marie-Louise in a London auction. The manuscript was eventually donated to the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and Yale University. Benjamin Britten re-introduced the work in 1967, conducting the discarded movement 73 years after its last performance. While many have attempted to insert the movement back into the First Symphony, it's an unpopular addition, and one Mahler would balk at from the grave. As a result, Blumine has seen new life as stand-alone work.
The 8-minute symphonic movement, scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, trumpet, timpani, harp, and strings, is immediately delicate in scoring. The title offers perspective, referencing the floral; it aptly describes the score's gentle and transcendental quality. A murmuring of tremolo strings in 6/8 prefaces the trumpet solo, a lyrical melody of a hero smitten. The orchestra blooms in the mid-section, developing the theme in various instrumental families. When the trumpet returns, the first violins join and eventually take over, bringing the work to a quiet breathless curtain call that foreshadows the composer's final Ninth Symphony.
Gustav Mahler was born on July 7, 1860, in Kaliště, Czechia, and died on May 18, 1911, in Vienna, Austria.© MTF
(Notes by Michael-Thomas Foumai)
ABOUT THIS PERFORMANCE (MASTERWORKS 5):
2019 National Sphinx Competition winner Sterling Elliot and maestro Dane Lam join forces with your Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra in a program with six degrees of separation. A lost treasure rediscovered, Mahler's Blumine, once part of the mammoth First Symphony, sounds once more along with Popper's electrifying Hungarian Rhapsody, Brahms's radiant Symphony No. 2, and the spellbinding Clockwerk of Australian composer Maria Grenfell.