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Good MusicWhat It Is and Who Gets to Decide$
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John J. Sheinbaum

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226593241

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226593418.001.0001

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Deep: Classical Values and Musical Color in Mahler’s Symphonies

Deep: Classical Values and Musical Color in Mahler’s Symphonies

(p.87) 3 Deep: Classical Values and Musical Color in Mahler’s Symphonies
Good Music

John J. Sheinbaum

University of Chicago Press

Gustav Mahler often thought about his orchestral music in the metaphorical shadow of Beethoven’s symphonies, particularly the singular masterpiece of the Ninth. Beyond occasionally employing voices, Mahler’s symphonies throw open the supposedly closed world of the work, question conventional symphonic rhetoric, and allow a hint of the “other” to permeate the work. A sharply etched kaleidoscopic use of orchestral color, an aspect of music usually considered a “secondary” parameter, is often placed center stage, signaling the multiplicity of metaphorical voices within the work. Such features were often serious stumbling blocks for the composer’s contemporary critics, for they were thought to steal focus away from the deep musical structures based in the organization of pitch materials. The chapter contends that tone color functions as an integral part of the musical fabric, providing an essential key for interpretation. Timbre plays an important role in passages of cadential closure and thematic return. Primary examples are drawn from the Sixth and Ninth symphonies. By focusing on the ways musical color shapes sites of structural importance, the fundamental hybridity of Mahler’s music is highlighted in a way rich with connections to the fin-de-siècle context in which the works were created and first functioned.

Keywords:   Ludwig van Beethoven, cadential closure, fin de siècle, hybridity, Gustav Mahler, pitch, “secondary” parameters, thematic return, timbre, tone color

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