Mahler Analysis

First Movement Analysis

Frühling und kein Ende (Spring and No End)

The first movement is in modified sonata form in 4/4 time throughout. It begins with a slow introduction representing the gradual "awakening of nature from a long winter's sleep" (from the Hamburg program).

Langsam. Schleppend
(Slowly. Dragging)
Wie ein Naturlaut
Theme of fourths (Nature Theme)
9-15 Più mosso Clarinet fanfare (Awakening call)
16-21 Tempo I Theme of fourths
22-27 Più mosso Trumpet fanfare (Awakening call)
28-29 Tempo I Theme of fourths
30-31 Più mosso Cuckoo calls
32-35 Tempo I Slow mellow horn melody
36-39 Più mosso Trumpet fanfare
40-43 Tempo I Slow Mellow horn melody
44-46 Più mosso Trumpet fanfare and cuckoo calls
47-58 Tempo I Chromatic bass motif and theme of fourths

The tempo of the introduction section alternates between:

The strings hold the note A, spread over a range of seven octaves, the violins using harmonics for the highest registers. A two-note motif is gradually developed in the woodwinds establishing the following repeated pattern of descending fourths, reminiscent of the first movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in d minor:
Nature Theme Descending Fourths

(MP3 Format)
This ‘nature’ theme is interrupted by a fanfare ‘awakening call’ played by the clarinets, and later by muted offstage trumpets, indicated in the score: "In sehr weiter Entfernung aufgestellt" ("At a very far distance"):
Fanfare motif trumpets clarinets Mahler

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A slow and mellow melody is later introduced in the horns with directions to be "sung very softly":
horn melody mellow slow

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After more interruptions by the trumpets playing the fanfare theme, a rising chromatic motif is played by the double bass’ and cellos, with the nature theme layered on top by the trumpets.
rising-chromatic bass motif

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The ending of the introduction leads seamlessly into the exposition through the gradual build up of the descending two-note cuckoo motif which transforms itself into the main theme of the first movement, marking the beginning of the exposition.
cuckoo music motifcuckoo bird clock Mahler motif

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62-74 Song theme
75-108 Music from third verse of 2nd song from: Lieder eines fahrendon Gesellen
109-135 Music from first verse of 2nd song from: Lieder eines fahrendon Gesellen
136-162 Final group (taken from Tirili motif)

The exposition breaks free from the tense atmosphere established in the introduction section, becoming carefree and light. The main theme takes its melody from the second song from Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrendon Gesellen, titled: "Ging heut' Morgen übers Feld". The songs lyrics: "Isn't it becoming a fine world?; Chirp! Chirp! Fair and sharp!; How the world delights me!" translate beautifully both musically and semantically.
Main Theme First Movement - Songs Wayfarer

(MP3 Format)
This melody first appears in the cellos and gradually builds in dynamic as it makes its way through the different sections of the orchestra, eventually being played by the entire brass section. A new bird call is introduced towards the end of the exposition: the Tirilli motif. It begins in the woodwinds and is later shared with the strings:
Tirilli Bird Call Motif Music

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The exposition is repeated.

163-206 Part I: New form of introduction (now with gradual retard) without use of clarinet and trumpet fanfares, with the inclusion of the Tirili motif; preparation of cello theme
207-304 Part II:
209-220 Fanfare theme of the horns
221-229 Cantabile cello theme (functioning as a secondary theme)
225-304 Renewed statement and development of the song motif in changing colors, including the cantabile cello theme
305-357 Part III: A foreshadowing of the inferno in anticipation of a section from the Finale (bars 574-628)
352-357 "Breakthrough": Trumpet fanfares and woodwind and horn signals


358-442 Recapitulation
443-450 Coda
The development section begins as a new form of the introduction, keeping the drone A and cuckoo calls, the clarinet and trumpet fanfare motif is however, suppressed until later in the section. The opening also incorporates the newly introduced Tirilli motif. A cantabile cello theme is introduced which functions as a secondary theme:
Cantabile Cello theme

(MP3 Format)
The song motif is developed through variations in colour, dynamic and orchestration. The inferno section from the Finale is also hinted upon in this section creating a terrifying darkness which directly contrasts against the joyous ‘Breakthrough’ climax which immediately follows.