Read PDF Mahlers Sixth Symphony: A Study in Musical Semiotics (Cambridge Studies in Music Theory and Analysis)

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Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Temporarily Out of Stock Online Please check back later for updated availability. Overview The terms of structuralist and post-structuralist theory have been widely debated within the field of music analysis in recent years. However, very few analyses have attempted to address the repertoire of large orchestral works of the turn of the century - works which seem most obviously to escape the categories of conventional analysis.

This study uses a semiotic theory of signification in order to investigate different types of musical communication. Musical meaning is defined on several levels from structures immanent to the work, through questions of tradition and genre, to consideration of the symphony as a narrative alongside other contemporary non-musical texts.

Ideas from Eco, Barthes, and Derrida are deployed within the context of close analysis of the score in order to unite specifically analytical insights with cultural hermeneutics. Product Details Table of Contents.


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Table of Contents 1. By this point his broader European career seemed all promise. Irresistible in late-Romantic appeal, though leagues away from the complexities of the symphonies and tone poems, it was published separately in With Finlandia , it was soon widely regarded as one of Sibelius's signature pieces.

Far more substantial was the Violin Concerto in D minor, whose first version occupied him in and early : it was first performed in Helsinki in February Did the concerto not exist, it would be difficult to imagine such a merger, and at times the strain of the attempt shows through in some of the virtuoso figuration — an occasional tilt toward ostentation that would be out of place in the world of Sibelius's symphonies and tone poems.

Above all, its brooding Nordic atmosphere and motivic sound-world are unmistakably Sibelian.


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One of its unusual features was an expanded first-movement cadenza that serves as the development section building, surely, on the Mendelssohnian precedent of placing the cadenza at the end of the development ; another was its spine-stiffening enhancement of the display-concerto aesthetic through suddenly eruptive, powerfully resolute orchestral upheavals. Dissatisfied with portions of the version, which had disappointed the much-respected Helsinki critic Karl Flodin, Sibelius withheld the work from publication this version was recovered in In these years Sibelius's family and several of his associates became gravely concerned about the effects of his continued heavy drinking.

In his wife, Aino, and his close friend, Axel Carpelan — a fervent supporter who had sought out the composer three years earlier — devised a plan to save him from self-destruction: the family, now expanded with the birth of Katarina in , was to move permanently out of Helsinki, away from city life and its temptations. Here the sense of isolation — of communion with the vast pine forests throughout the cycle of seasons — was palpable.

Sibelius and his family moved into Ainola in September It was his home for the rest of his life. By , Sibelius's impact in Germany had been brought to a promising yet precarious position. On the one hand, such successes as his conducting of the Second Symphony in Berlin in January of that year confirmed his growing reputation as a controversial Northern modernist.

Expanding outward, in November Sibelius made his first trip to England, where he made a remarkable impression in Liverpool conducting the First Symphony and Finlandia. This trip was pivotal for his historical reception: ultimately his ties with English — and later, American — audiences would become stronger; within a few years, those with Germanic listeners would deteriorate. His first response was to return to the formal freedom of the tone poem. In January in Berlin he had heard Strauss — still the foremost of the musical modernists — conduct Ein Heldenleben and Symphonia Domestica.

This is my genre!! Throughout late and early the projected symphonic fantasy was Luonnotar , to be based on the creation story from the Kalevala. If Pohjola's Daughter was crafted as an enthusiastic response to the later tone poems of Strauss, that response also contained an element of critique. Increasingly suspicious of what he perceived as the episodic looseness and self-indulgent monumentalism of the most hypertechnically advanced modernists, especially Strauss and Mahler, Sibelius was now seeking a redoubled compression and motivic density: the performance time of Heldenleben is about 40 minutes; that of Pohjola about In —6 the composer was on the cusp of a crucial development.

Was it possible to remain regarded as unequivocally modern — in uniqueness of language and uncompromising attitude, in radical orchestral colour, in boldness and depth of idea — but simultaneously to react against the more sensationalist currents of modernism by recovering the economy and formal logic of the abandoned classical ideal?

A stylistic ideal at once referentially traditional yet almost compulsively dismissive of overtly popular appeal, it may be regarded as Sibelius's middle-period proposal to accommodate the assimilationist—separatist dialectic that kept pulling him in opposite creative directions. The leaner, less Kalevalaic Third Symphony in C was the manifesto of this merging into modern classicism. Less spectacular than his first two symphonies, the anti-monumental Third compensates through a further gain in compositional discipline. In part the work was a counter-response to Mahler's expansive Fifth Symphony, which he had studied in In October , shortly after Sibelius's completion of the Third, Mahler visited Helsinki, although he knew nothing of Sibelius's major works and thought little of the composer.

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The symphony must be like the world. With the Third Symphony, Sibelius grasped more clearly the artistic project that would dominate his later compositions: to give the impression that his reiterative, uncommonly concentrated language sought to draw out the hidden secrets of sound itself, to free an ontological truth from sound's acoustic materiality. To this end the Third Symphony strives to recover both the diatonic melodic fragment and the pure triad as meaningful modern utterances by presenting them in non-normative ways.

Such an unusual aim — the defamiliarization of the diatonic and the consonant within a surrounding European context of multiplying dissonance, ironic detachment and high modernism — was easy for audiences and critics to misconstrue. This dogged, non-ironized retention of the triadic would lead to much misunderstanding and bitterly partisan debate for the rest of the century. From one perspective, the finale can be understood as a radicalized sonata deformation, in which the double-theme scherzo cycles furnish two varied expositions and a development and the juggernaut conclusion serves as a reconceived recapitulation.

It eventually became the grounding formal principle of his works after The years —12 brought alternating periods of buoyant confidence and corrosive despair, much of which he registered in a diary beginning in February Both Sibelius's finances and health had reached a crisis point, even as his family continued to expand with the births of his last two daughters, Margareta in and Heidi in By he was awash in debts, he was experiencing the negative effects of prolonged alcoholism — in his own mind intoxication had been a necessary spur to his artistry — and he had developed a menacing throat tumour.

Fearing cancer, he consulted specialists in Helsinki and Berlin and suffered through several operations. On doctor's orders he was forced to swear off drinking and smoking. Although such abstinence had been previously unthinkable, this resolution lasted until For several years after , Sibelius was haunted by the shadow of death, and much in his music and thought at this time turned towards the darker and the more introspective.

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Mahler's Sixth Symphony: A Study in Musical Semiotics

Nor were affairs entirely encouraging on the professional level. His monetary problems, compounded by growing self-criticism whenever he undertook large-scale projects, strained his relations with Lienau and made it difficult to fulfil the conditions in his —9 contract. After the Third Symphony, he produced only two other major works for Lienau, neither of which invited public success.

Breaking more decisively away from the sonata principle through multiple, cumulative rotations, it foreshadows much of the sound-world of Sibelius's later works. As Sibelius himself recognized, this quartet was a milestone in his compositional development. Yet it did not come without a steep price. Anticipating certain features of the Fourth Symphony, the brooding language of the five-movement quartet seems to turn its back on audiences altogether in its entrenched isolation, depression and invasive despair.

It reveals its chilling, deeper currents only to initiates into Sibelius's manner of thinking.

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Most of what he offered to Lienau, however, proved to be compendia of short pieces of varying quality: fleeting sound-ideas, experimental miniatures or songs. These included the six German-language songs of op. Towards the end of , meanwhile, he had been momentarily rescued from his appalling financial situation through discreet contributions from a few wealthy Finnish patrons.

University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra: Mahler Symphony No. 6 ("Tragic"), Kenneth Kiesler, cond.

This relief effort was organized by his friend Axel Carpelan, who characteristically pressed Sibelius to steer clear of potentially lucrative miniatures in favour of major orchestral statements. His several trips abroad in —12 kept him abreast of new developments in music and permitted him to reflect on his own position — or lack of it — in the larger European markets. The most encouraging successes occurred in England, where a few influential voices — Bantock, Newman, Wood, Newmarch — continued to champion his cause.

But his experiences in Berlin and Paris during these years were at best mixed, at worst deeply discouraging. Apart from his English connection, Sibelius's career now seemed on the wane. His newer works proved especially difficult to market in the rest of Europe.

Mahler's Sixth Symphony: A Study in Musical Semiotics

His modern-classical gambit and increasingly dark, enigmatic musical utterances were not leading to the success for which he had hoped. The unresolvable obstacle was his puzzlingly unusual style. This self-assessment crossed a crucial line with the widespread reconstruction of the concept of musical modernism that attended the European compositional revolutions in the years around — Stravinsky, Schoenberg and others.

Sibelius's Fourth Symphony in A minor —11 was the climactic utterance of his modern-classical style — broken, despairingly contemplative, irretrievably lonely in tone, the product of much compositional struggle and, above all, a resolute statement of the separatist side of his conflicted artistic persona. It is a piece of enormous depth and implication, very much a work of its time, harbouring at its core a brilliantly staged contradiction. On the one hand, the standard 20th-century verdict, especially among historians, has been that this is Sibelius's most modern, most harmonically and technically advanced composition.

Many factors point in this direction: the Fourth's emphasis on the tritone as a generative interval; its arrestingly acerbic dissonances; the strangeness of its moment-to-moment syntax, including stubborn rhetorical discontinuities and truncations; its unparalleled motivic compression and density of thought; its structurally deformational movement layouts; its uncompromising bleakness and disdain of popular appeal. On the other hand, its selfconsciously anti-sensational tone was intended as a rebuke to the new, post- reconception of modernism.

In that irreconcilability it exposes, albeit from the sidelines, the conflicts tearing through the fabric of the European musical politics of the period. In terms of its initial reception in larger Europe, the Fourth Symphony was a failure. Sibelius's estrangement from the new reception categories of Austro-Germanic and French modernism would drive the remainder of his career.

Although his decision in early to turn down the offer of a position in composition at the Imperial Academy of Music in Vienna was prompted in part by local concerns, it was also a signal that he no longer sought the front lines of compositional battle on the terms offered by Central Europe. Fuelled by struggles with depression coupled with a visceral disdain for the polemically driven politics of musical fashion, his thoughts were turning instead towards withdrawal, private resistance to the new trends and continued explorations of the separatist path that he had set out for himself.

These attitudes were reinforced in early , when Sibelius took a month-long trip to Berlin after a year of isolation in Finland. Once again he threw himself back into the Germanic swirl, and there he sought out alternatives to his own style: the music of Debussy, Mahler, Strauss and above all Schoenberg, including the first Kammersymphonie , the Second Quartet and a few songs. Still, it was evident that his own music would maintain only a modest place on the continent and that the language, style and characteristic problems of the symphonic tradition were on the way to being judged obsolete.

Anticipations of this had been sounded in England for several years. The next stage unfolded among Sibelius's American champions. In Horatio Parker invited him to undertake a concert tour the following year in the eastern USA. Sibelius's visit to America in late May and early June — on the eve of European war — was one of the grandest experiences of his life. Among the most important of Sibelius's new acquaintances was Olin Downes, then the critic for the Boston Post.

He would pursue this overblown campaign in the s and 30s as the leading critic for the New York Times. Sibelius's actual compositional concerns during the years after the Fourth Symphony elude simplistic classification as either conservative or progressive: this late-period music resists such shopworn binary oppositions. Since Sibelius had begun to envisage an enormous final project: bringing the 19th-century ideal of organic form to a culmination while exploring the relationship of the resulting form to an enhanced presence of musical sound.

The composer had come to regard certain types of sound-image with reverence, as spiritually mappable onto the manifestations of Being concealed behind the visible surface of nature. At least within the sphere of musical practice, the composer appears to have held the quasi-animist conviction that long-dormant spiritual realities — roughly analogous to ancient, pagan gods — inhabit nature, waiting to be reawakened through meditative reflection.

Supplementing what we may regard as Sibelius's aesthetic pantheism was his growing belief in the potential reuniting of music with nature.

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He now sought to bring the palpable, grainy textures of musical sound and the processes of musical elaboration into alignment with the magisterial spontaneity of nature's cries, rustles, splashes, storms, cyclical course and the like. Thus the act of composition became a neo-pantheist spiritual exercise. The resultant work of art was intended to invite a complementarily mystical, reverential or poetic listening — not to be captured by rational analysis or chalkboard explanation.

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The compositional battles of the final-period works, from Luonnotar and The Oceanides to the Fifth three versions, , , , Sixth and Seventh Symphonies and Tapiola , were shot through with an unnerving mixture of creative exhilaration and crushing self-criticism. Most of the late works went through substantial reconceptualizations, recompositions and revisions before he consented to publish them.

In April he compared his compositional practice to the search for the proper reconfiguration of scattered mosaic tiles flung down from heaven. After the Fourth Symphony Sibelius sought to forge musical structures less dependent on traditional musical shapes than on the non-systematic, intuitive logic of the musical materials selected for any given composition. As he later explained, pieces were to grow by moment-to-moment motivic transformations as spontaneously and self-assuredly as frost patterns. In his diary entries of April, May and August he repeatedly vowed to develop this new method.

As a result, his major works after , veering from the usual symphonic shapes, have provoked different analytical interpretations.