Intimacy and Music

The true feelings that music does to the human soul, it’s a powerful force has enough to bring one to glee, introspect, infatuation, even lament. All types of music regardless where it comes from, invokes a sentimental change in the heart that could either do good to the listener or bad. Whether it reminds you of the good times or the bad, music has the ability to do some wild stuff in the mind and can do enough to heal the body too. It’s a force that can’t be reckoned with.

And then there’s Mahler’s 5th, the 4th movement “Adagietto”. Notably his most famous symphony work out there and one of my favourite symphonic orchestral works, besides all the others being from Rachmaninoff *rolling of the eyes*. (Hey, at least I didn’t write the whole thing about Rachmaninoff, I’m putting some variety!) Back to Adagietto!

The New York Times writer Gilbert Kaplan shows the back story behind Mahler’s 5th and the pure emotion of a love letter to his wife written in musical form:

The Adagietto served as a love letter from the composer to Alma Schindler, probably shortly before they were married in 1902. The Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg, in his personal copy of the Fifth Symphony, wrote: “This Adagietto was Gustav Mahler’s declaration of love for Alma! Instead of a letter, he sent her this in manuscript form; no other words accompanied it. She understood and wrote to him: He should come!!! (both of them told me this!).” Mengelberg’s own description of the Adagietto was “love, a love comes into his life.”

The often melodic lines that flow the piece together can almost be heard as a lover or Mahler in his words, singing a love song towards his beloved Alma. There are hints of melancholy but there is sorrow or lament in it. Everytime I hear Adagietto, it reminds me of not of the feelings of sorrow and lament, but the of feelings of love and the aching of the heart. It is noted that feelings of this piece especially the certain devices used by Mahler intensify these emotions. And these emotions in their true form are what same emotions of Romanticism I talk about almost all the time…

Mahler Adagietto

In the first few bars of Adagietto, the use of the suspension of the C7th and leading the F Major7th into the F has this melancholy but lyrical passiveness, like a hiding of emotion and the leading into an overwhelming feeling of love and infatuation. It then takes you into this daze and a story is being told. A story filled with raw emotion, a peace that only the listener can interpret. There is a little hint of sorrow when it turns into minor, but then it turns back into the love story and glory of emotion when it reinstates its quiet and beautiful theme. What really gets me about this piece are the ingenious devices in the beginning that Mahler uses to create a fade in and fade out effect. Everything slowly comes in and then rejoices in harmony and melancholy, then after the love poem has been sang, it fades out. What perfection. It’s almost like all the feelings and the emotions were always there, the silence between the piece being a just as important as the music itself. The English Novelist Charlotte Bronte says about silence:

The human heart has hidden treasures, In secret kept, in silence sealed; The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, Whose charms were broken if revealed.

To end, a quote by Beethoven:

Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman.