- Symphonic Movement
- Rejected Movement 2 of Symphony No 1.
In June 1884, Gustav Mahler received a commission from Kassel to write incidental music to seven tableaux vivants for Der Trompeter von Säckingen, a play by Joseph Viktor von Steffel (1826-1886). Later he found his music too sentimental and was so dissatisfied with it that he asked an acquaintance to destroy the piano reduction. As the only surviving score perished when the Kassel Theater was bombed in 1944, the music was long thought to be lost. But in 1966 the Mahler biographer Donald Mitchell (b. 1925) discovered a manuscript at Yale University that answered many questions while raising a few more. This andante movement in C major, known today as Blumine, is a puzzling piece of music closely associated with the gestation of Mahler’s First Symphony.
In early 1888, Mahler became the director of the Royal Opera in Budapest. Here he completed a symphonic poem in two sections and five movements that received its première on 20 November 1889. He left Budapest in 1891 to become principal conductor at the Hamburg Municipal Theater. In January 1893, with the prospect of a second performance, he revised the work, at first removing the andante movement only to reinstate it and attach a program to the entire symphony. It was in the course of this revision that the slow movement received the title Blumine. In this form, the entire symphony, now entitled (with a nod to Jean Paul) Titan: a Tone-Poem in Symphonic Form, was premièred under Mahler’s baton on 27 October 1893. It was performed in the same form the following year in Weimar, on 3 June. By the fourth performance, given on 16 March 1896, the Blumine movement had vanished from the now four-movement symphony, and with it the work’s program and its title, Titan. Mahler now called the work Symphony in D major for large orchestra. It was published in this four-movement form in 1899. Thereafter Blumine was long thought to be lost, as the early manuscripts had disappeared. By a circuitous route, a copyist’s manuscript of the 1893 Hamburg version arrived in the United States, where it was unearthed by Donald Mitchell in 1966 – a discovery that brought the work’s story full circle.
When Mitchell examined the autograph score at Yale in 1966, his eyes lit on a theme that had been handed down in the Mahler literature in the memoirs of the music critic Max Steinitzer (1864-1936). Steinitzer had described the first six bars of Der Trompeter von Säckingen, and Mitchell noticed the congruence between the surviving theme and the recently unearthed score. As the Blumine autograph was written on paper of a smaller size than the rest of the manuscript of the First Symphony, he concluded that Mahler must have inserted the entire movement of the original entr’acte, Werners Trompetenlied, unchanged into the score of the symphony. Given the absence of the original score, there is no way to verify this claim. Nevertheless, it is quite certain that the serenade was transformed into Blumine with few if any changes. This also becomes clear when we compare the much smaller scoring of the movement with the forces demanded for the symphony.
The rediscovered piece was given its first twentieth-century hearing by Benjamin Britten at the Aldeburgh Festival on 18 June 1967. On 19 April 1968, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Frank Brieff, performed Titan with Blumine reinserted as its second movement. This kindled a debate as to whether Mahler’s First should be performed with or without this movement – a debate that has persisted to the present day. As a compromise solution, Blumine is appended to the end of the symphony, as can often be heard on relatively recent complete recordings of Mahler’s symphonies.
The question remains why Mahler expunged the movement from his symphony in the first place. One practical reason might have been the length of the five-movement work. Mahler’s female confidante, the viola player Natalie Bauer-Lechner (1858-1921), saw the reason in the work’s key scheme, for the C-major of Blumine sounds alien between the tonic D major of the first movement and the dominant A major of the scherzo. The conductor Bruno Walter (1876-1962) recalled that Mahler presented him with a piece of music that he considered “insufficiently symphonic.” The actual reasons cannot be determined with any degree of certainty. All we can conclude is that Mahler had mixed feelings about Blumine. In 1884, he was satisfied with the trumpet serenade; in 1886, he found it too sentimental and wanted it destroyed; in 1888, he interpolated it into a symphony; and in 1893, he removed it yet again!
Johann Paul Friedrich Richter (1763-1825), who wrote under the pseudonym Jean Paul, is known to have been Mahler’s favorite author. It was he who wrote the novel Titan that briefly lent its name to the First Symphony – a name by which it is again known today. Mahler took the now obsolete German word “Blumine” from the three-volume collection Herbst-Blumine, oder gesammelte Werkchen aus Zeitschriften (“Autumnal Blossoms, or Collected Lesser Works from Periodicals”) that Jean Paul published between 1810 and 1820, intending it to refer to a collection of flowers. Jean Paul, for his part, took the word from the linguist Christian Heinrich Wolke (1741-1825), who championed the cause of an exemplary High German, arguing that the names of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses should be given German equivalents and suggesting the Roman goddess Flora should be renamed “Blumine.” Mahler himself never let it be known how he wanted the term to be understood.
In its formal outline, Blumine can be derived from the three-part arch form (A-B-A’). The first theme is preceded by a four-bar introduction of tremolando strings, establishing backdrop against which the trumpet states the first theme. This theme is irregularly constructed from a four-bar antecedent and a five-bar consequent and ends with a half cadence. For two bars, the harp and woodwind modulate back to C major, preparing the trumpet for its second entrance. It begins with the same head motif as in the first theme – a motif of central importance to the entire movement – but elaborates it in a different way. C major is reached in bar 20 via a secondary dominant in the form of a suspended second-inversion triad. The tension is resolved in the basses, chromatically veiled above a pedal point on G and prolonged to bar 28. It then resolves via the dominant to C major.
A twelve-bar transition leads to the B section, which opens in the relative minor (A minor) and proceeds to modulate to remote tonal areas. In the process, Mahler combines unusual pairs of instruments to create two-voice “bicinia.” For example, beginning in bar 71, the double basses play in duet with the oboe, after which the first violins provide a counterpoint to the horn melody, and beginning in bar 93 the cellos play in canon with the flute. At this point the movement reaches the distant key of G-flat major, a tritone removed from the tonic. Once again, a chromatically veiled second-inversion triad on G serves as a transition.
The recapitulation of the A section is abridged. It again opens with the trumpet melody, but the melody is not repeated as in the first section. It is restated a few times only to break off suddenly. The music vanishes in the high strings and ebbs away with three chords from the harp.
Blumine is the title of the rejected Andante second movement of Mahler's First Symphony. It was first named Blumine in 1893. However it was not discarded until after the first three performances, where it remained the second movement. After the 1894 performance (where it was called Bluminenkapitel), the piece received harsh criticism, especially regarding the second movement. In the Berlin premiere in 1896, Blumine was cut out, along with the title Titan and the programme of the symphony. Shortly after this, the symphony was published without the Blumine movement and in the previous versions of the symphony it was gone.
Blumine originates from some incidental music Mahler wrote for Joseph Victor von Scheffel's dramatic poem Der Trompeter von Säckingen. The trumpet serenade was used for Blumine with little changes. It was originally scored for a small orchestra and this is how it appears in Blumine, which is in contrast to the large orchestra used in the rest of the symphony. The movement is a short lyrical piece with a gentle trumpet solo, similar to the posthorn solos in the Third Symphony. Even though it was cut from the symphony, there are still traces of its influence in the rest of the movements.
Blumine translates to "floral", or "flower", and some believe this movement was written for Johanna Richter, with whom Mahler was infatuated at the time. The style of this movement has much in common with Mahler's earlier works but also shows the techniques and distinct style of his later compositions.
Blumine was rediscovered by Donald Mitchell in 1966, while doing research for his biography on Mahler in the Osborn Collection at Yale University, in a copy of the Hamburg version of the symphony. Apparently, Mahler had given it to a woman he tutored at the Vienna Conservatory. It was passed on to her son, who then sold it to James Osborn, who then donated it to Yale University.
Benjamin Britten gave the first rediscovered performance of the Hamburg version in 1967, after it had been lost for over seventy years. After this discovery, other people performed this movement, some even simply inserting the Blumine into the 1906 version. However, many people did not agree about playing this music as part of the symphony. Mahler had rejected it from his symphony, they reasoned, so it should not be played as part of it. Famous Mahler conductors such as Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), Georg Solti and Bernard Haitink (1929) never performed it. Others perform Blumine before or after the symphony, while still others performed it on its own or alongside Mahler's other works.