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Hello and welcome to Sticky Notes: The Classical Music Podcast!  This podcast is for anyone who loves classical music, or is just getting ready to dive in for the very first time.  Thanks so much, and I hope you enjoy it!  

Apr 6, 2023

There is a thread of musical theory called Schenkerian analysis, based on the work of Heinrich Schenker.  Schenker believed that musical works could be boiled down to their fundamental structures and harmonies.  Entire works could be described with single chords.  If Schenker had applied his analysis to Mahler’s 5th symphony, he might have played just two chords for you: a C# minor chord, and then a D Major chord.  The reason why?  Over the course of 70 minutes, Mahler takes the listener on a wild journey, starting in C# minor with a lonely military trumpet, and then ending in a glorious D Major coda that might be the most unambiguously sunny thing Mahler ever wrote:
But of course, how we get there is the most fascinating part of this monumental symphony.  Today, on Part I, I’m going to take you through Part I of the symphony, which encompasses the first two movements.  Next week, we’ll take a look at Parts 2 and 3 together, which take up the final three movements of the piece.  Part I of the piece represents both a shift in Mahler’s music, and a nostalgic remembrance.  As always with Mahler, there are multiple meanings to every phrase.  The opening of the symphony, which sounds so unusual, is itself based on a seemingly random moment of the 4th symphony.  The funeral march that dominates the first movement is based at least partly on a piece he was writing at the same time, the Kindertotenlieder, or Songs on the Death of Children.  And the second movement, one of the most unusual and complicated movements Mahler had ever written up to this point, quotes a motive from Schubert’s Death and the Maiden string quartet.  Clearly, death, a specter that always haunted Mahler, is alive and well in Part 1 of the symphony.  The first two movements of the symphony might be a perfect distillation of Mahler; they are passionate, wild, intense, but also tightly scored, precisely structured, and full of that constant push and pull between the past, the present, and the modern, that makes Mahler’s music both a product of its time, but also music that is always relevant to us. Join us!