* Earlier versions of Francesca Draughon’s contribution to this essay were read, as “‘Truth and Poetry in Music’: Autobiography in the Funeral March of Mahler’s First Symphony,” at the Joint Regional Meeting of the American Musicological Society, Santa Cruz, California, April 1998 (where it won the Ingolf Dahl Memorial Award), and the National Meeting of the American Musicological Society, Kansas City, Missouri, November 1999. An earlier version of her paper was also awarded the Carmela and Charles Speroni Fellowship by the Department of Musicology at UCLA, June 1998. Earlier versions of Raymond Knapp’s contribution to this essay were read, under the present title, on June 1, 2000, at the Skirball Cultural Center in connection with Sigmund Freud: Conflict & Culture; and at UCLA on November 30, 2000, jointly sponsored by the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies and the Brentwood Discussion Group.

1. For more on Freud’s position in Viennese culture, see Gay’s Freud and A Godless Jew; Gay's A Life for Our Time; Gilman’s The Case of Sigmund Freud; and Schorske’s Fin-de-siècle Vienna.

2. This part of Mahler’s complaint reminds us that, although Mahler’s connection to Vienna is rightly central to our view of him—and although this connection has been much reinforced by how frequently he has figured in more general discussions of turn-of-the-century Vienna—he held several positions in Germany before moving to Vienna in 1897, working in Kassel (1883–85), Leipzig (1886-88), and Hamburg (1891–97).

3. For an engaging discussion of Mahler’s youth in Iglau and his ensuing religious uncertainties, see Franklin 9–42.

4. For another insightful discussion of fin-de-siècle Jews and identity crises, see Harrison 25–30; see also Schorske, Fin-de-Siècle Vienna.

5. Lueger presents a curious profile of anti-Semitism and it is no simple matter to determine whether his opportunistic behavior hid a secret sympathy for Jews (which some have suggested), represented political caution, or betrayed simple indifference; thus, he aligned himself with the Jewish Democrats in 1876 and continued to designate himself as a liberal from 1882-1887, while, as mayor, he in some cases acted to protect Jews. See Schorske, Fin-de-Siècle Vienna, chapter 3. Peter Gay’s account of Hitler’s early years describes him as:

…educated in the gutter politics of Vienna in the days of the anti-Semitic mayor Karl Lueger, to Hitler “the mightiest mayor of all time.” It was in Vienna that he had absorbed his political “philosophy,” a malignant brew of racial anti-Semitism, skillful populism, brutalized social Darwinism, and a vague yearning for “Aryan” dominion over Europe. Austria, the land so strenuously celebrated for its musical life, its sweet young things, its Sacher torte, and its largely mythical Blue Danube—actually not blue, but a muddy brown—provided Hitler with the notions, and the hints for political action, that he later loosed on the world from the larger staging area of Germany. (Freud 447)

Regarding Hitler’s appreciation for Mahler’s performances of Wagner, Ian Kershaw reports that in…

…spring 1906, Adolf persuaded his mother to fund him on a first trip to Vienna, allegedly to study the picture gallery in the Court Museum, more likely to fulfill a growing ambition to visit the cultural sites of the Imperial capital. For two weeks, perhaps longer, he wandered through Vienna as a tourist taking in the city's many attractions. With whom he stayed is unknown. The four postcards he sent his friend Gustl and his comments in Mein Kampf show how captivated he was by the grandeur of the buildings and the layout of the Ringstraße. Otherwise, he seems to have spent his time in the theatre and marveling at the Court Opera, where Gustav Mahler's productions of Wagner's Tristan and The Flying Dutchman left those of provincial Linz in the shade. (22-3)

See also Kubizek 221 and 226. Another vivid accounting of Hitler’s “schooling” in Vienna may be found in Wolff 100–102.

6. Regarding Herzl and the Zionist World Congress, see Beller; Bein; and Cohen.

7. Regarding Hilsner, see Wolff 102–113, especially 105–107, where Wolff draws specific connections between audience behavior, Mahler’s reaction, and the on-going Hilsner controversy. See also Wistrich 339-340 and 514–515. An anonymous article published in the Deutsche Zeitung in the year of Hilsner’s conviction reads, in part, “Mahler's left hand often jerks convulsively, marking the Bohemian magic circle, digging for treasure, fluttering, snatching, strangling, thrashing the waves, strangling babies” (quoted in Knittel 268; see also La Grange, Mahler 486; original). As Sander Gilman puts it, “it was difficult to pick up an issue of the Viennese Neue Freie Presse without reading about the lodging of the blood accusation somewhere in Europe. At least fifteen cases appeared between 1881 and 1900…. The Jews’ murder of Christian children became an element of the forensic rhetoric of the time.” Gilman also cites an explanation from a Jewish physician as to why a child would give testimony: the “small, weak child, raised in the direst poverty, is brought before this august person, who incorporates all justice and power.... [This] “poor, isolated being is overwhelmed by him” and listens as he describes the Jews as “a damned race, who see it as their pious undertaking to spill Christian blood, in order to dampen the dough for the unleavened Easter bread” (The Case of Sigmund Freud 208–210). Cf. Wistrich’s startling observation, which has even more direct relevance to Mahler’s tenure in Vienna, that “between 1898 and 1905 alone, there were no less than thirty blood libels recorded in different parts of the Empire, especially in the rural Slavic (and Catholic) regions of Galicia, Bohemia, Moravia” (339).

8. See Page, passim. While Bernstein provides an important touchstone for how centrally Mahler’s Jewishness could matter, there were of course other musicians for whom the issue was in some way relevant, including Luciano Berio, Uri Caine, Otto Klemperer, James Levine, Zubin Mehta, George Rochberg, Arnold Schoenberg, Dimitri Shostakovich, George Solti, and Bruno Walter.

9. See Steinberg’s compelling argument that Mahler’s conversion resulted from his considered choice, however politically expedient it might also have been. Steinberg sees the decision to convert or not, for some Jews of Mahler’s generation (including two others we have here raised as points of comparison for Mahler, Freud and Herzl) as “a dimension of [his] work and its deepening intellectual and political orientation” (17). A telling anecdote recounted by Magnus Dawison (Davidsohn), a future Berlin cantor who sang in Mahler’s 1899 productions of Beethoven’s Ninth and Wagner’s Lohengrin, implies that the basis of Mahler’s conversion rested on his belief that one had to renounce a narrow musical practice in order to embrace a wider one, even as it poignantly reveals a continued, largely untapped connection to what he had renounced. Thus, after hearing of Dawison’s cantorial ambitions, Mahler replied, “But then you would have been lost to the world of art!”; yet he was soon improvising on remembered synagogue melodies for a spellbound Dawison (La Grange, Gustav Mahler 172–174).

10. The vexed question of Nietzsche’s anti-Semitism has been the topic of much discussion, with a variety of claims being made, ranging from the view that his perceived anti-Semitism was entirely the product of his sister’s posthumous manipulations (see Kaufmann), to the contention that his specific formulation of an anti-Christian anti-Semitism provided crucial underpinning for Nazi ideology (see O’Brien). See also Peters; Fischer; Hyman; Kuenzli; Sokel; Aschheim The Nietzsche Legacy in Germany and “Nietzsche, Anti-Semitism and Mass Murder;” and Yovel.

11. Regarding Shostakovich, see Taruskin. In Mahler’s case, writing overtly Christian music seemed only to draw ontoward attention to his Jewishness; thus, regarding anti-Semitic reaction to the “Resurrection” Symphony, see La Grange, Mahler 507 and Steinberg 28.

12. Alma Mahler goes on, “He shook his head in despair. With a sigh of relief we at last turned a corner and found ourselves in a well-lighted street among our own sort of people” (Memories and Letters 162; original). Regarding Mahler’s post-Alma purging of his friends, see Franklin 127 and 129.

13. How well-established Louis’s critical perspective had become in between Mahler’s death and the Third Reich may be gauged from the following assessment by Paul Rosenfeld from the early 1920s:

For if Mahler’s music is pre-eminently a reflection of Beethoven’s, if he never spoke in authentic accents, if out of his vast dreams of a great modern popular symphonic art, out of his honesty, his sincerity, his industry, his undeniably noble and magnificent traits, there resulted only those unhappy boring colossi that are his nine symphonies, it is indubitably, to a great extent, the consequence of the fact that he, the Jew, was born in a society that made Judaism, Jewish descent and Jewish traits, a curse to those that inherited them. The destiny that had made him Jew decreed that, did he speak out fully, he would have to employ an idiom that would recall the harsh accents of the Hebrew language quite as much as that of any tongue spoken by the peoples of Europe. It decreed that, whatever the history of the art in which he lived, he could not impress himself upon his medium without impregnating it with the traits he inherited from his ancestors. … But it was just the racial attributes, the racial gesture and accent, that a man in Mahler’s position found inordinately difficult to register. … So a ruinous conflict was introduced into the soul of Gustav Mahler. In the place of the united self, there came to exist within him two men. For while one part of him demanded the free complete expression necessary to the artist, another sought to block it for fear that in the free flow the hated racial traits would appear. … [and later:] For Mahler never spoke in his own idiom. His style is a mongrel affair. … The fatal assimilative power of the Jew is revealed nowhere in music more sheerly than in the style of Mahler. … [and still later:] Mahler, in seeking to escape his racial traits, ended by representing nothing so much as the Jew. For if there is anything visible behind the music of Mahler, it is the Jew as Wagner, say, describes him in ‘Das Judentum in der Musik,’ the Jew who through the superficial assimilation of the traits of the people among whom he is condemned to live, and through the suppression of his own nature, becomes sterile. … It is the Jew as he is when he wants most to cease being a Jew. (206–209, 215–216, and 220–221)

Notably, Rosenfeld is by no means anti-Semitic in conventional terms, for in the same volume he writes approvingly of Ernest Bloch, “one of the few Jewish composers [who is] really, fundamentally self-expressive” (287).

14. There were many other dimensions to Bernstein’s construction of Mahler as a “double man,” including child-adult, East-West, operatic-symphonic, and orchestra-chamber, which he delineated for his script of “Who Is Gustav Mahler.” Curiously, however, Bernstein backed away from actually using the Jewish-Christian aspect of his “double-man” explanation for Mahler in the telecast of “Who is Gustav Mahler,” striking it from the typescript prior to delivery and adding “Jewish” to the “East” part of his “East-West” dichotomy (see also Bernstein, “Mahler: His Time Has Come,” 258–261). Regarding the “double-man” and Bernstein’s discussion of Mahler’s “duality,” see Page 208–209 and 217–228, and most especially 219, 221, 222, and 226.

The specific association of neurosis and Jews dates from at least Mahler’s generation. According to Gilman, “the view that Jews are especially prone to hysteria and neurasthenia because of a weakening of the nervous system due to inbreeding appeared in canonical form in Jean Martin Charcot's Tuesday Lesson for 23 October 1888” (Difference 155). In his Lesson Charcot wrote: “I will use this occasion to stress that nervous illnesses of all types are innumerably more frequent among Jews than among other groups” (v. 2, 11–12).

We may well note that Bernstein’s “double-man” has its roots in Rosenfeld’s “In the place of the united self, there came to exist within him two men” (previous note); although Bernstein does not acknowledge the full scope of his agenda, he is, like the present authors, attempting to take seriously a previously articulated negative assessment of Mahler’s music, in order to rescue the analytical insights from the bile that surrounds them. It is, admittedly, a delicate operation, and we can scarcely fault Bernstein from shying away in the end from performing it for his “young people.” But the cultural ambivalence so often noted in Mahler’s music, which gives both Louis’s and Rosenfeld’s assessments their persuasive weight (and both did, after all, manage to persuade large numbers of people), is too central to our concerns for us simply to put their observations aside as tainted.

15. In the cut portion of “Who is Gustav Mahler?,” Bernstein claims that this passage has “the flavor of a band playing at a Jewish wedding” (8); see also Page 222.

Ex. A: Berlioz, Symphonie fantastique

London Classical Players, Roger Norrington
© 1989 EMI CDC 7 49541 2

16. The prominence of the E-flat clarinet here is extraordinary, as the instrument was not yet a “regular” voice in the orchestra. The most significant earlier example occurs in the finale of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, where it functions similarly, adding a flavor of parodistic caricature (hear Ex. A).

17. “The predominance of the violin in the klezmer ensemble remained unchallenged until the relatively late introduction of the clarinet early in the 19th century…the clarinet was an evocative and mesmerizing instrument that sought out and found that most compelling aspect of the music: its closeness to the human voice” (Sapoznik 8).

18. A nasal vocal quality was also generally understood as a marker of a “Jewish” voice, as an anecdote about Arthur Schnitzler shows: after hearing a recording of his own voice, Schnitzler wrote in his diary that he was struck with its “nasal, Jewish character” (diary entry for March 19, 1907, cited from the unpublished diaries in Rider, Der Fall Otto Weininger 207; see also Idelsohn, Jewish Music 192).

19. Brod points out Mahler’s frequent use of this dotted march rhythm (in all but the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Ninth Symphonies) and, after stating that this rhythm is characteristic of Hassidic folk songs, argues that Mahler uses these rhythms mainly when the text or narrative is of the highest subjects—“God and eternity”—just as these rhythms are used in the Sabbath songs of Hassidic music (378). To be sure, dotted rhythms have other topical signification grounded well outside Jewish traditions, such as marches, nobility, and military.

20. Ukrainian musicologist Philaret Kolessa calls the mode the “altered Dorian” because he believes it may have been derived from the Dorian by augmenting the fourth above the final. Its widespread use in the Ukraine leads some to call it the “Ukrainian Dorian” mode, and Jewish synagogue singers call it “Misheberakh,” for the name of the prayer it frequently accompanies; see Kolessa. For further discussions of the mode and the various names it has been given, see also Idelsohn, Jewish Music 181–195; and Slobin 184–187.

21. Although this mode is also prevalent in songs of the Ukraine, its use in these songs differs from Eastern-European songs in several regards: the mode would more often have a descending profile, the emphasis would be on only one motive, which is varied and embellished, and the turn figure typically has a downward profile (scale degrees 1–7–6–5–6–7–1; see and hear Ex. B); see Idelsohn, Jewish Music 181–195 and “Musical Characteristics” 634–645.

22. In a review of the première, Beer characterized the melody as “performed in the Hungarian manner” (quoted in Floros 39); Mitchell refers to the melodies as “gypsy music” (294); and Floros characterizes the music as a “csardas,” a Hungarian dance (42).

23. As given in an 1894 program. Although Mahler changed the titles of the movements of the symphony several times, and disrupted the structure of the work as a whole by discarding the original second movement, he always grouped the final two movements together and rarely changed their descriptive titles. For the 1889 Budapest premiere, performances in Hamburg (1893) and Weimar (1894), and the title page for EMS (1894), the second part of the symphony is titled “Commedia humana.” The funeral march’s title changed only a bit, from “Stranded! (A funeral march ‘in the manner of Callot’)” (Hamburg, 1893) to “Stranded! The Hunter’s Funeral Procession” (Weimar, 1894) to simply “Funeral March ‘in the manner of Callot’” for the 1894 EMS title page. Similarly, the fourth movement retained, in one form or another, the title “Dall’ Inferno al Paradiso.” See Mitchell 158–159 for a complete chronology of the titles and their changes.

24. Mitchell argues that Mahler, in making this reference to “Callot,” was not intending to evoke the French etcher Jacques Callot (1592/3–1635), but rather, E. T. A. Hoffman’s Phantasiestücke in Callots Manier. Similarly, Pfohl reports that Mahler’s title Todtenmarsch in Callots Manier refers to Hoffman’s Fantasiestücke, which he claims to have pointed out to Mahler (17).

25. Other binary oppositions suggested by the symphonic movement’s association with the woodcut include “high art” vs. “folk,” “human” vs. “nature” and, by extension, “urban” vs. “rural.” For a more elaborate discussion of these and other frames of reference in Mahler’s creation of his distinctive musical identity, see Draughon.

26. Although most of the Mahler literature identifies the referenced song as “Bruder Martin,” German-speaking musicologists sometimes offer “Bruder Jakob” as an alternative; see Jung-Kaiser. We may also note that “Jakob” provides a much more plausible connection to the French version (“Jacques”), although the English version (“John”) can only have arisen directly from the French, and carries none of the referential meanings of “Martin” and “Jakob” cited below.

27. Adorno speaks of the “bridge between popular and art music” in Mahler’s symphonies (31). Similarly, Schorske argues that “by interjecting into the regulated movement of the lofty the dynamic of the lowly, Mahler produced a sense of shock, even of short circuit” (Gustav Mahler 173).

28. As Bakhtin states, “The laughter [of the carnival] is ambivalent: it is gay, triumphant, and at the same time mocking and deriding. It asserts and denies, it buries and revives” (12).

29. Mahler described the funereal allusion in the Fourth Symphony as “Der kleine Appell,” implicitly the more modest sibling of the “Der grosse Appell” (“the great calling of the roll”) in the finale of the Second Symphony; see Bauer-Lechner 154. A facsimile page from the autograph manuscript of the Second Symphony, headed “Der grosse Apell [sic],” is given in Hefling, “Mahler: Symphonies 1–4” 388.

30. Regarding the presumed identity of the “hero,” see Hefling, “Mahler’s ‘Todtenfeier’” 27–53. Regarding the forgiving tone of the finale, see his “Mahler: Symphonies 1–4” 387.

31. See, for example, the poetry of Nabokov’s Poems and Problems, whose intricacies seem ultimately as foreign-based as the intricate, convoluted sensibility that govern the chess problems, or the aesthetic sense that would link such intricacies to the contrivances of poetry.

32. See Knittel; see also Schorske, “Gustav Mahler;” and Blaukopf 158. Critics of Mahler’s Beethoven may also have been objecting to his revisions in the orchestration, although here Mahler was following a tradition most strongly advanced by Wagner.

33. Regarding the song and its development, see Dowlding 133–136; Harry 217; and Lewisohn 196.

34. The full passage reads as follows:

In the “Fischpredigt”… the prevailing mood is one of rather bitter-sweet humor. St. Anthony preaches to the fishes; his words are immediately translated into their thoroughly tipsy-sounding language (in the clarinet), and they all come swimming up to him—a glittering shoal of them: eels and carp, and the pike with their pointed heads. I swear, while I was composing, I really kept imagining that I saw them sticking their stiff immovable necks out from the water, and gazing up at St. Anthony with their stupid faces—I had to laugh out loud! And look at the congregation swimming away as soon as the sermon's over: “Die Predigt hat g’fallen/Sie bleiben wie alle” [“They liked the sermon/But remained unchanged”]. Not one of them is one iota wiser for it, even though the Saint has performed it for them! But only a few people will understand my satire on mankind. (Bauer-Lechner 32–33; original)

The pictorial dimension of this song was undoubtedly reinforced for Mahler by his having an engraving of this scene (apparently the one by Arnold Böcklin) on the wall of his Hamburg studio (La Grange, Mahler 883, n53).

35. This account comes from a letter to Max Marschalk, dated 26 March 1896; see Gustav Mahler 150.

36. That the close identification of high musical culture and German instrumental music was the result of a deliberate strategy during the generation following Beethoven, has been persuasively argued by Pederson. Applegate has challenged this view, positing a less central role for nationalism in the elevation of music, without, however, denying the place Marx and others claimed for “serious” music within the context of a developing German nationalism, nor arguing effectively against either the gravity of the consequences nor the often pernicious tenacity of this coupling. Regarding the development of the idea of “absolute music” in the German lands, see Nelson; Dahlhaus, The Idea of Absolute Music and “The Twofold Truth in Wagner’s Aesthetics: Nietzsche’s Fragment ‘On Music and Words;’” and Hanslick (although Hanslick does not use the term “absolute music,” he is clearly responding to Wagner’s disparaging use of the term some years earlier).

37. For a descriptive/interpretive account of Berio’s adaptation, see Osmond-Smith.

38. Cooke refers to this song-based section of the movement as a “consolation” (33–36).

39. Another credible interpretation of Mahler’s procedures is that the dance-like counterpoint is a necessary complication to what would otherwise be rather tedious repetitions of a joke worn thin. But this consideration by no means invalidates the reading offered here of the effect of the device.

40. Mahler’s use of “absolute music” as a topic is often aligned with situations in which, allegorically, animals represent a world unattuned to human concerns (cf. the earlier discussion of “Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt” and the Scherzo of the Second Symphony; a similar process may be traced in the transformation of “Ablösung im Sommer” into the Scherzo of the Third Symphony). In noting Mahler’s frequent use of this trope, Olsen concludes, “His approach to the animal pieces provides a telling testimony to the unsettling dissonance between mortal tragedy and the brutal workings of an uncaring world. Thus Mahler turned to the animals to express his disenchantment” (222). Yet, as argued here, the “animal pieces” are much too subtly nuanced to sustain this generalization, reflecting Mahler’s almost pervasive ambivalence; significantly, none of them may be taken as a pure indictment of the world.

41. If it is surprising that the net modulatory result in the movement is identical to that in the song, we must remember that modulation, like addition, is commutative, so that IV + flat-VI = flat-VI + IV = flat-II.

42. This device for enhancing excitement, derived largely from Beethoven and becoming later in the twentieth century a device for artificially “juicing up” repetitions in some genres of popular music, was already well on its way to becoming a cliché in the late nineteenth century, with, most relevantly for Mahler, myriad examples in Bruckner. In this case, the effect is made particularly startling because it involves centrally one of the traditionally stable components of the orchestra, the timpani, and because the lift occurs only after a substantial intervening section.

43. To be sure, a more subjectively rendered cry of despair, matching more closely those in his next two symphonies, launches the finale of the First; see Olsen 223–226.

1    2    3    4    5    Works Cited   Endnotes


Top of Page Table of Contents Click to email ECHO


Ubiquitous Listening

Draughon and Knapp:
Mahler and the Crisis of Jewish Identity

Photo Essay

Review Essay

Allen Forte