Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Genesis of Mahler's Seventh Symphony
by Stoll-Knecht, Anna, Ph.D., New York University, 2014, 458; 3635308
Abstract (Summary)

Mahler's Seventh Symphony stands out as one of the most provocative symphonic statements of the early twentieth century. Mahler's musical past is summoned in particular way in this work, knitting a complex web of associations that provide multiple hermeneutic leads. Yet despite the work's stunning qualities and a positive reception at the time of its first performance in 1908, the Seventh has progressively acquired the status of "problem child" in the Mahlerian canon. One of the main factors in this process is precisely its highly intertextual character, since the Seventh has been often heard either as "existing in the shadow" of the Sixth Symphony, or as "too reminiscent" of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von N├╝rnberg.

By focusing on sketch materials previously considered as "discarded" - which are generally overlooked in sketch studies - my dissertation reveals unexpected connections between the Seventh and both the Sixth and Meistersinger. This shows that Mahler's compositional project was strongly grounded in a dialogue with works from the past, and that this referential aspect should be taken as an important key to interpreting the work.

My study sheds light on the complex genetic history of this work. First, it reveals that the composition of the Seventh was deeply entangled with that of the Sixth, since Mahler was already at work on the second, fourth and last movements of the Seventh in 1904 - while he was completing the outer movements of the Sixth.

Second, I argue that Mahler's open allusions to Meistersinger in the Finale are only the audible remainder of a deeper compositional interpretation of Wagner's music. In fact, Wagnerian references are more explicit in the sketches than in the final version, which suggests that Mahler, in the end, sought to occlude the audible "Wagnerizing" in the symphony.

My study proposes a reassessment of the least well known of Mahler's symphonies and shows how this specific work enriches our understanding of Mahler in a unique way. Finally, it invites us to explore the question of Mahler's reception of Wagner; and, by extension, of Mahler's view of his Jewish heritage, as well as of his relation to German culture.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Beckerman, Michael
Commitee: Boorman, Stanley, Daughtry, Martin, Kramer, Richard, Peattie, Thomas
School: New York University
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 76/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Music
Keywords: Compositional process, Mahler, Gustav, Seventh Symphony, Sixth Symphony, Sketch studies, Wagner, Richard
Publication Number: 3635308
ISBN: 9781321162950
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