The Construction of Closure and Cadence in Gustav Mahler's Ninth Symphony and Das Lied von der Erde

Nixon, Mark (2008). The Construction of Closure and Cadence in Gustav Mahler's Ninth Symphony and Das Lied von der Erde. PhD thesis The Open University.



My doctoral thesis uses Mahler's last two completed works, Das Lied von der Erde and the Ninth Symphony, in order to demonstrate that recent approaches to the analysis of late- Romantic music are still dependent on ideas which are themselves a product of Romantic ideology. Typically, the musical practice of the late-nineteenth century (and after) is characterised in terms of its subversive relationship with the music which preceded it, most notably music of the Classical period. To avoid falling in with this Romantic narrative of subversive mastery, the thesis carries out a close analytical reading of the music, but in the context of late-Romantic aesthetics. So, Mahler's actual practice in cadence formation is continually related to the aesthetics of the late-Romantic period as embodied in Mahler's own writings and reported comments. From the perspective of this late-Romantic aesthetic, a cadence which is considered subversive by Classical norms can be seen as normative, whilst equally, a cadence in a late-Romantic work which is normative from a Classical perspective, has a more complex relationship with the music which surrounds it. Romantic ideology is also apparent in a number of analyses of these works and these demonstrate that the perceived coherency of these works is based on aspects of Romantic ideology which are still embedded in twenty-first-century culture. Thus, I trace the influence of the Kantian and Schopenhauerian conceptions of the Sublime on responses to the end of Das Lied. By demonstrating that the organisation of the music at the close of this work does have a direct relationship with these concepts, this then shows why the openness of Das Lied's ending appears coherent. By contrast, the Ninth has no such simple relationship and this explains the difficulties which commentators often have with the ending of this work.

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