Mahler's Eighth is his most "baroque" conception. Here his unique style of orchestral polyphony is complemented by a rich antiphony of solo and choral voices – eight soloists and three separate choirs – to achieve a truly cosmic interplay of musical sounds on a flexible, but vast and panoramic scale. It is a pity that, if an unofficial subtitle had to be appended to this work, it was not something like the "Universe Symphony." The epithet "Symphony of a Thousand" evoked by Emil Gutmann is the sort of thing an impresario would and did dream up, and does not really do it justice.
It is obviously not the sheer size of the ensemble that is all-important in a work that features within its vast apparatus a solo mandolin and numerous solos for violin, viola or cello, a work that distinguishes two different kinds of organ sounds, and so on. What is significant is the complex interplay of colors, both in the foreground and in the background, and that is what is meant here by "baroque."
The Eighth is true symphony. It is soundly constructed on extended sonata principles, and every bar is systematically integrated into the developmental scheme.
As his primary woodwind section, the composer indicates 4 flutes, 4 oboes, 3 clarinets, and 4 bassoons, but, he adds, "in heavy choral and string passages, it is recommended that the first woodwinds be doubled." As supplemental woodwinds, he prescribes "several piccolos if possible, but at least two," the same for E-flat or high clarinets, and finally 1 English horn and 1 contrabassoon. The onstage brass section consists of 8 horns, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, and bass tuba, the offstage brass, 4 trumpets (the first part to be tripled if possible), and 3 trombones. The keyboard wind instruments consist of pipe organ and harmonium; the keyboard percussion, glockenspiel, celesta, and piano. The other percussive instruments are timpani, bass drum, cymbals, gong, triangle, and deep bells. The stringed instruments consist of 4 harps and mandolin (both multiplied at will), and of course a very large complement of the regular string choir. The size of the antiphonal choral forces (two mixed choruses and boys' choir) necessary to balance, in turn, the instrumental contingent at all points, easily accounts for the thousand performers celebrated at the Eighth's premiere.
How did Mahler come to conceive such a work at that point in his life? It seems that whenever Mahler reached a crisis in his musical or personal life, his creativity was restored by some poem that rose into his consciousness, demanding to be set to music. The longest hiatus, a "psychological block," which has been astutely analyzed by Dr. Theodor Reik in his book The Haunting Melody, was the nearly two-year block that ended in 1894, and that had prevented the composer from completing his Second Symphony during all that time. The restorative poem in that case was Klopstock's ode, Auferstehen! ("Resurrection!").
A similar crisis took place a year after the completion of the difficult Seventh Symphony, and again it was a hymn that restored his creativity. Dr. Reik recounts that Mahler came to the Austrian Tyrol in the summer of 1906, feeling no creativity or spontaneity, but suddenly "the Spiritus Creator took hold of me and shook me and drove me on for the next eight weeks, until my greatest work was done." This Spiritus Creator was the text of the medieval Latin hymn (Veni, Creator Spiritus) attributed to Hrabanus Maurus, Archbishop of Mainz (776-856), and written to celebrate the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles at Pentecost.
A second source of inspiration was Goethe's Faust, Part II, in which Faust's soul ascends into Heaven. Structurally, Veni serves the function of a classical sonata-allegro movement, while the Faust scene combines the functions of Adagio, Scherzo, and Finale. Mahler thus makes the Veni Creator a plea or invocation to which the Faust scene provides the answer of fulfillment.
It is fascinating to be able to trace one step in the rapid evolution of this scheme. We have a page of an early draft in Mahler's hand, outlining a more conventional four-part scheme of separate movements. Veni Creator Spiritus already stands by itself as the first movement. This was to be followed by an apparently instrumental Scherzo and an Adagio Caritas (these two later reversed). Notice that the word caritas ("bond of love" ) also appears in the text of the Veni Creator. Finally came another choral movement, The Birth of Eros. That this item was intended as a setting from Faust can be inferred from Mahler's letter to his wife:
The tonality of E-flat Major, the key of the "Resurrection" coda of the Second Symphony and the serene Andante of the Sixth, might be said to have chosen Mahler, since in Reik's words it was an "overpowering E-flat Major chord which had occurred to him," along with the opening of the hymn itself, first stated by both adult choirs and then tossed back and forth between them. When the last cry of "Gloria Patri" has echoed away, the whole movement is almost (and should be) perceived as a single shout of joy. Whereas in several prior symphonies, Mahler progresses from an opening to a different closing key for the last movement, here he chooses to return to E-flat Major repeatedly and in a final confirmation. The symphony concludes with an overhead choir of trumpets and trombones storming the heavens by further raising his upward interval of a major seventh into a ninth.
Between the opening and closing E-flat tonalities is a world of expression and varied tone color. We hear the D-flat Major of "Imple superna gratia" which introduces the solo singers, the d minor lament of "lnfirma nostri corporis" which turns the "Veni" theme into a sorrowful dirge, followed by the fantastic nocturne (beginning the development), introduced by the deep tolling of a bell, which transforms the same theme into a flickering but familiar specter of Mahler's night-world. We hear the great E Major outburst of "Accende lumen sensibus" and the fierce e minor of "Hostem repellas," prefacing the colossal double fugue "Ductore sic te praevio," with its march rhythm set in motion by the full organ, which sweeps us irresistibly on into the reprise. And just before the coda begins, we hear the clear call of the boys on "Gloria, gloria Patri Domino."
By juxtaposing liturgical Latin with the vernacular of his own time and place, Mahler acutely departs from 19th-century practices, and anticipates the modern usage of composers like Stravinsky and Elgar. He does not combine the languages within the same continuous movement or section, but separates them with a fairly long and highly evocative instrumental prelude to Part II. This opens in the pre-dawn darkness of e-flat minor, with a chilly tremolo and grouping pizzicatos, outlining in sharpest contrast the same theme with which Part I exultantly ended. At the same time the high woodwinds enter with a three-note dotted figure derived from "Amorem cordibus" (boys' choir), and other chorale motives from Part I that will pervade the entire Faust scene. The prelude later breaks into a wilder section full of passionate yearning (an Allegro moderato) before subsiding into the hushed, expectant opening chorus. The succeeding music, in the form of an Adagio with variations (some much faster) and coda, is sung mostly by male voices, solo and choral. This is the music of the Anchorites, who are depicted against the wild (and of course symbolic) landscape of step rocks and foaming cataracts that is their chosen habitat. The picture is given by the Pater Profundis (faster as in the prelude, Allegro appassionato, e-flat minor), after the Pater Ecstaticus has sung of penance and redemption (Moderato, E-flat Major). Of Goethe's dramatis personae, Mahler omits only the Pater Seraphicus. After the poignant cry, "O Gott, beschwichtige die Gedanken, erleuchte mein bedurtig Herz!" the scene lightens, the pace quickens, and the Scherzo begins in B Major, Allegro deciso.
The Scherzo and Finale sections are intertwined to some degree. That is to say, the Scherzo, which is also in a variation form, gives way at one point to the opening statement of the Finale, later to resume for several more variations. These alternations are fairly easily identifiable, since the Scherzo is sung principally by women's voices, solo or choral, and by boys' voices; but the bounds are fluid rather than rigid. The main effect is of a continually developing and evolving music. The first set of variations is devoted to the interchanges of the Blessed Boys, The Younger Angels, and the More Perfect Angels. The basic mood is familiar from the angelic Wunderhorn songs of the Third and Fourth Symphonies. At "Uns bleibt ein Erdenrest" there is a brief return to the d minor lament of the Veni Creator.
The Finale begins with the arrival of Doctor Marianus, extolling the coming Mater Gloriosa as "Höchste Herrscherin der Welt" and (with chorus) "Jungfrau, rein im schönsten Sinne" (Molto adagio e devoto), and followed by the beautiful chorus, "Dir, der Unberührbaren," with its ethereal E Major prelude for violins, harmonium and harp. Here Goethe introduces an effect not intended to be realized without dramatic staging, as the Mater Gloriosa herself "soars into view," but remains silent for some time. Mahler, in the role of scene designer, paints in the event with his orchestra. The Chorus of Penitent Women provides another magnificent effect with tremolos and arpeggios for harps, piano and celesta. The Scherzo variations resume with the solo songs and trio of the Penitent Women: Magna Peccatrix, Mulier Samaritana, and Maria Aegyptiaca (note here, in g minor, a "preview" of the orientalism of Das Lied von der Erde), and finally Una Poenitentium, Faust's Gretchen, hitherto introduced with the chorus, but now solo, in D Major with mandolin and harps. After the Blessed Boys have been heard again, Gretchen interjects in E-flat Major another and more joyful reprise from the Veni Creator (formerly "Imple superna gratia"). Then the Mater Gloriosa at last sings, calling Gretchen gently "to the higher spheres," as the Finale section resumes in the home key of E-flat Major.
The major and minor modes vie constantly with each other in various keys during the ardent music that follows. Doctor Marianus leads the ecstatic cry of "Blicket auf!", joined antiphonally by the three choruses; and after the final supplication of "Göttin, bleibe gnädig" has echoed and died away, the scene gradually empties in preparation for the great coda, the Chorus Mysticus. The anticipatory interlude that begins on the dominant of E-flat is, if possible, even more ethereal than "Die, der Unberührbaren". The piccolo solo and its treble accompaniment for piano, celesta, harmonium, and harps inhabit a world dimly suggested by Mahler's earlier song "Ich atmet' einen linden Duft". When all is still, there follows the final, hushed entry of the double chorus in six-part harmony with "Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichnis", surely one of the supremely affecting moments in all music.
— Jack Diether
|PART I: VENI, CREATOR SPIRITUS
text: Hrabanus Maurus
(Words omitted by Mahler are in [brackets])
|Veni creator spiritus,
Mentes tuorum visita;
Imple superna gratia,
Quae tu creasti pectora.
|Come thou, creator infinite,
Let but thy spirit visit us,
Filling with all thy grace affords
Sinew and heart thou hast wrought in us.
|Qui Paraclitus diceris,
Donum Dei altissimi,
Fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
Et spiritalis unctio.
|Thou, our appointed comforter,
Gift of Godhood ineffable,
Life's fountain, flame, true bond of love,
And soul's annointing from on high.
|Infirma nostri corporis
Virtute firmans perpeti;
Accende lumen sensibus
Infunde amorem cordibus.
|Our bodies' frail infirmity
With everlasting strength endow;
Inflame our senses with thy light,
And with thy love expand our hearts.
|Hostem repellas longius,
Pacemque dones protinus;
Ductore sic te praevio
Vitemus omne pessimum.
Tu septiformis munere,
Dexterae paternae digitus.
|Drive far away the enemy,
And bring us everlasting peace;
Our faltering steps with sureness guide,
That thus all evil we may shun.
Thy gift to man is sevenfold,
Finger of God's eternal grace.
|Per te sciamus da Patrem,
Noscamus [atque] Filium,
[Te utriusque] spiritum
Credamus omni tempore.
|Make thou to us the Father known,
And teach us too the Son to own;
Thus may thy spirit over us
With strength endow our hearts at last.
|Da gaudiorum praemia,
Da gratiarum munera
Dissolve litis vincula,
Adstringe pacis foedera.
|Permit us heavenly joy to know,
Abundant grace on us bestow;
Dissolve the chains that vanquish us,
And join us in the bond of peace.
|Gloria Patri Domino,
Deo sit gloria et Filio
Natoque, qui a mortuis
Surrexit, ac Paraclito
In saeculorum saecula.
|Praise we God the Father then,
Praise to the Father and to the Son
Incarnate, he who for us died
To rise to eternal glory
Through ages past and yet to come.
|— Translation by Jack Diether|
|PART II: FAUST, Closing Scene
text: Johann Goethe
Scene: Mountain-gorges, Forest, Rock Desert
The Holy Anchorites, divided in ascending planes, are posted among the ravines
|HEILIGE ANACHORETEN||HOLY ANCHORITES|
|Waldung, sie schwankt heran,
Felsen, sie lasten dran,
Wurzeln, sie klammern an,
Stamm dicht an Stamm hinan.
Woge nach Woge spritzt,
Höhle, die tiefste, schützt.
Löwen, sie schleichen stumm,
Freundlich um uns herum,
Ehren geweihten Ort,
|Forests are waving grand,
Rocks, they are huge at hand.
Clutching, the roots expand,
Thickly the tree-trunks stand.
Foaming comes wave on wave;
Shelter hath deepest cave.
Lions are prowling dumb,
Friendly where'er we come,
Honoring the sacred place,
Refuge of Love and Grace!
(hovering up and down)
Siedender Schmerz der Brust,
Pfeile, durchdringet mich,
Lanzen, bezwinget mich,
Keulen, zerschmettert mich,
Blitze, durchwettert mich;
Dass ja das Nichtige
Glanze der Dauerstern,
Ewiger Liebe Kern!
|Endless ecstatic fire,
Glow of the pure desire,
Pain of the pining breast,
Rapture of God possessed!
Arrows, transpierce ye me,
Lances, coerce ye me.
Bludgeons, so batter me,
Lightnings, so shatter me,
That all of mortality's
Die, and the Star above
Beam but Eternal Love!
|Wie Felsenabgrund mir zu Füssen
Auf tiefen Abgrund lastend ruht,
Wie tausend Bäche strahlend fliessen
Zum grausen Sturz des Schaums der Flut,
Wie strack, mit eignem kräftigen Triebe,
Der Stamm sich in die Lüfte trägt;
So ist es die allmächtige Liebe,
Die alles bildet, alles hegt.
|As at my feet abysses cloven
Rest on abysses deep below;
As thousand severed streams are woven
To foamy floods that plunging go;
As, up by self-impulsion driven,
The tree its weight sustains in air,
To Love, almighty Love, 'tis given
All things to form, and all to bear.
|Ist um mich her ein wildes Brausen,
Als wogte Wald und Felsengrund!
Und doch stürzt, liebevoll im Sausen,
Die Wasserfülle sich zum Schlund,
Berufen, gleich das Tal zu wässern;
Der Blitz, der flammend nieder schlug
Die Atmosphäre zu verbessern,
Die Gift und Dunst im Busen trug:
Sind Liebesboten, sie verkünden,
Was ewig schaffend uns umwallt.
Mein Inn'res mög'es auch entzünden,
Wo sich der Geist, verworren, kalt,
Verquält in stumpfer Sinne Schranken,
Scharf angeschloss'nem Kettenschmerz.
O Gott! beschwichtige die Gedanken,
Erleuchte mein bedürftig Herz!
|Around me sounds a savage roaring,
As rocks and forests heaved and swayed,
Yet plunges, bounteous in its pouring,
The wealth of waters down the glade,
Appointed, then, the vales to brighten;
The bolt, that flaming struck and burst,
The atmosphere to cleanse and lighten,
Which pestilence in its bosom nursed,
Love's heralds both, the powers proclaiming,
Which, aye creative, us infold.
May then, within my bosom flaming,
Inspire the mind, confused and cold,
Which frets itself, through blunted senses,
As by the sharpest fetter-smart!
0 God, soothe Thou my thoughts bewildered,
Enlighten Thou my needy heart!
|(The two following choruses are sung simultaneously)|
|CHOR DER ENGEL
(soaring in the higher atmosphere, bearing the immortal part of Faust)
|Gerettet ist das edle Glied
Der Geisterwelt vom Bösen:
Wer immer strebend sich bemüht,
Den können wir erlösen;
Und hat an ihm die Liebe gar
Von oben teilgenommen,
Begegnet ihm die selige Schar
Mit herzlichem Willkomrnen.
|The noble Spirit now is free,
And saved from evil scheming:
Whoe'er aspires unweariedly
Is not beyond redeeming.
And if he feels the grace of Love
That from On High is given,
The Blessed Hosts, that wait above,
Shall welcome him to Heaven!
|CHOR SELIGER KNABEN
(circling around the highest summit)
|CHORUS OF BLESSED BOYS|
|Hände verschlinget euch
Freudig zum Ringverein
Regt euch und singet
Heil'ge Gefühle drein!
Dürft ihr vertraun;
Den ihr verehret
Werdet ihr schauen.
|Hands now enring ye,
Soar ye and sing ye,
With holiest feeling!
The Teacher before ye
Trust, and be bold!
Whom ye adore, ye
Him shall behold.
|DIE JUNGEREN ENGEL||THE YOUNGER ANGELS|
Jene Rosen, aus den Händen
|They, the roses, freely spended|
By the penitent, the glorious,
Helped to make the fight victorious,
And the lofty work is ended.
We this precious Soul have won us;
Evil ones we forced to shun us;
Devils fled us, when we hit them:
'Stead of pangs of Hell, that bit them,
Love-pangs felt they, sharper, vaster:
Even he, old Satan-Master,
Pierced with keenest pain, retreated.
Now rejoice! The work's completed!
|DIE VOLLENDETEREN ENGEL (Chor mit Altsolo)||THE MORE PERFECT ANGEL|
|Uns bleibt ein Erdenrest
Zu tragen peinlich,
Und wär' er von Asbest
Er ist nicht reinlich.
Wenn starke Geisteskraft
An sich herangerafft,
Kein Engel trennte
Der innigen beiden;
Die ewige Liebe nur
Vermag's zu scheiden.
|Earth's residue to bear|
Hath sorely pressed us;
It were not pure and fair,
Though't were asbestos.
When every element
The mind's high forces
Have seized, subdued, and blent,
No Angel divorces
Twin-natures single grown,
That inly mate them:
Eternal Love, alone,
Can separate them.
|(The following two choruses and first eight lines of Doctor Marianus are sung simultaneously)|
|DIE JUNGEREN ENGEL||THE YOUNGER ANGELS|
|Ich spür soeben
Nebelnd um Felsenhoh'
Regend sich in der Nah',
Seh' ich bewegte Schar
Los von der Erde Druck,
Im Kreis gesellt,
Die sich erlaben
Am neuen Lenz und Schmuck
Der obern Welt.
Sei er zum Anbeginn,
| Mist-like on heights above,
We now are seeing
Nearer and nearer move
The clouds are growing clear;
And moving throngs appear of Blessed Boys.
Free from the earthly gloom,
In circling poise,
Who taste the cheer
Of the new springtime bloom
Of the upper sphere.
Let them inaugurate
Him to the perfect state,
Now, as their peer!
|DIE SELIGEN KNABEN||THE BLESSED BOYS|
|Freudig empfangen wir|
Diesen im Puppenstand;
Also erlangen wir
Löset die Flocken los,
Die ihn umgeben!
Schon ist er schön und gross
Von heiligem Leben.
|Gladly receive we now
Him, as a chrysalis:
Therefore achieve we now
Pledge of our bliss.
The earth-flakes dissipate
That cling around him!
See, he is fair and great!
Divine Life hath crowned him.
(in the loftiest, purest cell)
|Hier ist die Aussicht frei,|
Der Geist erhoben!
Dort ziehen Frau'n vorbei,
Schwebend nach oben;
Die Herrliche mittenin
Die nicht ahnte, dass sie fehle
Dein Verzeihen angemessen!
|Free is the view at last,
The spirit lifted:
There women, floating past,
Are upward drifted:
The Glorious One therein,
With star-crown tender,
Who her loving error saw not,
Pardon adequate and blessing!
|UNA POENITENTIUM (Gretchen)||A PENITENT (Gretchen)|
Dein Anlitz gnadig meinem Glück!
Der früh Geliebte,
Nicht mehr Gertrübte,
Er kommt zurück.
|Incline, O Maiden,
With Mercy laden,
In light unfading
Thy gracious countenance upon my bliss!
My loved, my lover,
His trials over
In yonder world, returns to me in this!
(approaching in hovering circles)
|Er überwachst uns schon
An mächtigen Gliedern,
Wird treuer Pflege Lohn
Wir wurden früh entfernt
Doch dieser hat gelernt;
Er wind uns lehren.
|With mighty limbs he towers
Already above us;
He, for this love of ours
Will richlier love us.
Early were we removed,
Ere Life could reach us;
Yet he hath learned and proved,
And he will teach us.
|UNA POENITENTIUM (Gretchen)||A PENITENT (Gretchen)|
|Vom edlen Geisterchor umgeben,
Wird sich der Neue kaum gewahr,
Er ahnet kaum das frische Leben,
So gleicht er schon der heiligen Schar.
Sich, wie er jedem Erdenbande
Der alten Hülle sich entrafft.
Und aus ätherischem Gewande
Hervortritt erste Jugendkraft!
Vergönne mir, ihn zu belehren,
Noch blendet ihn der neue Tag!
|The spirit-choir around him seeing,
New to himself, he scarce divines
His heritage of new-born Being,
When like the Holy Host he shines.
Behold, how he each band hath cloven,
The earthly life has round him thrown,
And through his garb, of ether woven,
The early force of youth is shown!
Vouchsafe to me that I instruct him!
Still dazzles him the Day's new glare.
|MATER GLORIOSA (und Chor)||MATER GLORIOSA (and Chorus)|
|Komm! Hebe dich zu höhern Sphären!
Wenn er dich ahnet, folgt er nach.
|Rise, thou, to higher spheres!
Who, feeling thee, shall follow there!
|DOCTOR MARIANUS (und Chor)
(looking at her face in adoration)
|DOCTOR MARIANUS (with Chorus)|
|Blicket auf zum Retterblick.
Alle reuig Zarten,
Euch zum seligem Glück
Werde jeder bess're Sinn
Dir zum Dienst erbötig;
Jungfrau, Mutter, Königin,
Göttin, bleibe gnädig!
|Penitents, look up, elate,
Where she beams salvation;
Gratefully to blessed fate
Grow, in re-creation!
Be our souls, as they have been,
Dedicate to Thee!
Virgin Holy, Mother, Queen,
Goddess, gracious be!
|CHORUS MYSTICUS||CHORUS MYSTICUS|
Ist nur ein Gleichnis;
Hier wird's Ereignis;
Hier ist's getan;
Zieht uns hinan.
|All things transitory
But as symbols are sent:
Here grows to Event;
Here it is done;
The Woman-soul leadeth us
Upward and on!
|— From the Bayard Taylor translation|
Recorded December, 1963 in the Mormon Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Utah
Producer: Seymour Solomon
Engineer: Marc Aubort and Ed Friedner
Originally release: Vanguard VSD 71120-1 (2 LPs)