The shimmering string harmonics at the opening of Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony bring to mind the suspended breath of spring, and will have signalled even to the very first audiences that a new symphonic era was being ushered in. Soon enough the composer introduces some of the elements that would become key components of his musical language: sounds of nature (here cuckoo calls) are combined with quasi-militaristic fanfares and ‘high-art’ chromatic wanderings in cellos, as if to illustrate Mahler’s view of the symphony as an all-embracing art form.
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Mahler Symphony No. 1 in D major (1885—88) 1 ) I. Langsam. Schleppend. — Immer sehr gemächlich 2 ) II. Kräftig bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell 3 ) III. Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen — attacca — 4 ) IV. Stürmisch bewegt