The compositional process
of this movement is poorly documented as a whole, with no short
score/continuity draft or orchestral draft currently located or
seen in recent years. Nevertheless the course of events can be
discerned from other sources. In an unpublished portion of
her memoir of Mahler, Natalie Bauer-Lechner reported that the
composer had begun to sketch ideas towards the end of his summer
vacation in 1893, but had commented (NBL2,
276 (revised, with editorial underlining)):
Läst du mir die Tücke des Objects
statt des 4/4 Taktes, den ich zum vierten
Satz brauche, jetzt lauter 3/4 Takte einfallen, mit
denen ich nichts zu tun anfangen kann!
Things have a nasty will of their
own. Instead of ideas in 4/4, which I need for the
fourth movement, I now have only ideas in 3/4
time, with which I can do nothing!
early sketches from the late summer of 1893 may
not have played a significant role in the completed movement.
The crucial event in the evolution of the last movement was the
funeral of Hans von Bülow at the Michaeliskirche in Hamburg²
on 29 March 1894. As Mahler recounted in a letter to Arthur
Seidl on 17 February 1897,
the 'problem' of the finale was resolved (GMB
Ich trug mich damals lange Zeit schon
mit dem Gedanken, zum letzten Satz den Chor
herbei-zuziehen und nur die Sorge, man möchte dies
als äußerliche Nachahmung Beethovens empfinden, ließ
mich immer und immer wieder zögern! Zu dieser Zeit
starb Bülow und ich wohnte seiner Totenfeier hier
bei. – Die Stimmung, in der ich dasaß und des
Heimgegangenen gedachte, war so recht im Geiste des
Werkes, das ich damals mit mir herumtrug. – Da
intonierte der Chor von der Orgel den
Klopstock-Choral „Auferstehn"! – Wie ein Blitz traf
mich dies und alles stand ganz klar und deutlich vor
meiner Seele! Auf diesen Blitz wartet der Schaffende...,
I had long contemplated bringing in the choir in
the last movement, and only the fear that it would be taken as a
formal imitation of Beethoven made me hesitate again and again.
Then Bülow died and I went to the memorial service [actually the
funeral]. — The mood in which I sat and pondered on the departed
was utterly in the spirit of what I was working on at the
time.— Then the choir, up in the organ loft, intoning Klopstock's
Resurrection chorale. —It flashed on me like lightening,
and everything became plain and clear in my mind! It was the
flash that all creative artists wait for....
This account confirms the memoirs of one of Mahler's Hamburg
friends, J.B. Foerster, who was at the service and noted also
the impact of the sound of the church bells, another sonic event
embedded in the peroration of Mahler's Symphony. In the
afternoon he visited Mahler in his apartment
Ich öffne die Tür und sehe ihn am Schreibtisch
sitzen, das haupt ist gesenkt, die Hand hält die Feder über
Notenpapier. Noch stehe ich in der Türe. Mahler wendet sich um
und sagt: „Liebe Freunde, ich hab's!” ... Klopstocks Gedicht,
das wir am Vormittag aus Kindermünden vernommen haben, wird die
Unterlage für den Schlußsatz der Zweiten Symphonie sein.
I opened the door, and saw him
sitting at the writing desk, head bent, hand holding
pen over manuscript paper. I remained standing at
the door. Mahler turned and said: 'Dear friend, I've
got it!'...Klopstock's poem which we heard this
morning in the mouths of children, will be the basis
of the finale of the Second Symphony.
So it appears that Mahler may have made some sketches that day,
and if so, they may survive (see
However, not least because of his very busy conducting schedule,
it is very unlikely that very much more work was undertaken
before the summer vacation in Steinbach am Attersee.⁴ Mahler
travelled there from Weimar (where he had conducted his First
Symphony) on 6 June 1894; on 29 June he sent a postcard to
Friedrich Löhr to 'Beg to report safe delivery of a strong,
healthy last movement to my Second'
GMSL, 154–5; Mahler posted a virtually identical note to his
brother Otto on 30 June (GMLJ,
What exactly had been completed becomes clearer from a later
letter of 10 July, addressed to Arnold Berliner (GMB
Ich bin natürlich mitten im Arbeiten.
Der 5. Satz ist grandios und schließt mit einem
Chorgesang dessen Dichtung von mir herrührt...Die
Skizzierung ist bis in die kleinste Einzelheit
vollendet und eben bin ich daran, die Partitur
I am of course hard at work. The fifth movement
is grandiose, concluding with a chorus for which I have written
the words myself ... The sketch is complete down to the last
detail and I am just completing the score.
From this it is clear that Mahler was working in the way that
was to be the norm in future years: having prepared a sketch –
probably a continuity draft in short score format, with detailed
indications of instrumentation (=
[SS5]) – he was working on an
orchestral draft of the movement (=
[OD5]). The latter may have
been completed by 19 July, when Mahler reported the completion
of the Symphony in a letter to Strauss (GMRSB,
GMRSBE, 38); it was certainly finished by 25 July
Mahler wrote to Berliner (GMB
157), specifically referring to completion of the 'score'
which must be a reference to the orchestral draft.
The fair copy (AF2)
would not be completed until December 1894.
One further detail of the Berliner letter deserves comment: the
unqualified reference to 'the fifth movement'. This seems to imply that Berliner would already have known that four – including,
therefore, Urlicht – had already been
completed/incorporated. Indeed, the evidence of the orchestral
draft (OD2) of what was eventually the second
movement, but which in July 1893 was labelled '4. Satz',
indicates that the decision
about Urlicht had been taken rather earlier, in
the summer of 1893. Mahler's comment to Seidl, that he had long
contemplated bringing in the choir perhaps needs to be read in
this context: a movement for solo voice and orchestra would form
an appropriate bridge. On the other hand, the title page of the
orchestral draft of the song makes its numerical position
(no. 7) within the growing Des Knaben Wunderhorn collection
unambiguously clear, and Mahler's reference in 1893, quoted
above, to his attempts to sketch the 'fourth movement',
leaves the question of the date of the song's definitive
incorporation into the Symphony unresolved.
Having completed the orchestral
draft of the finale, Mahler left on 26 July 1894 for a brief trip to
Bayreuth (until 4 August), before a last few days in Steinbach.
He returned to Hamburg via Vienna (see
157), Munich and Berlin, where he met the concert agent, Hermann Wolff, with
whom he eventually arranged the first complete performance, in
December 1895 (GMLJ,
On 31 August he played the new Symphony to J.B. Foerster
– presumably from his orchestral drafts, and either the full
score or vocal score of Urlicht – and was able to report
Foerster's enthusiastic response to Justine (GMLJ,
A number of sketches
survive for the later stages of the finale (see
but the recently uncovered sheets described here shed light
on the evolution of that part of the finale about which least
was known, the opening. Although at first glance the fourth
sheet seems not to be a continuation of the first three,
it may be the page referred to in a note at the foot of page 2:
the 17-bar passage that stands in place of what are bars 97–141
in the final version, are deleted, and at the end of the cut
Mahler writes an insert sign and A—B and writes at the
foot of the page Vide Nachste Seite!. On the other hand
the later stages of page 4 are such that it is difficult to
envisage how the material could have eventually linked with bb.
The two passages (on pp. 1 and 2) that
are substantially different from the final version inevitably
raise some interesting issues of musical content and structure.
The first has very little musical substance at all, and was
replaced by a restatement of the 'cry of disgust' from the
scherzo and a prefiguration of material that become
important at the very end (e.g. at b. 696ff.). The second made
direct reference to material from the first movement – b. 254ff.
– which was later replaced by new material that was to be
memorably developed later in the structure of the movement.
S5.1 has not been
examined and this description is based on the published
account (FBJR) and
the facsimile published therein.