Mahler serves as an example of a Romantic composer. He often shows political motivations in his music, very typical to the late Romantic era (Robbins 2011). In fact, his external, nonmusical motivations for compositions gets him into trouble, with his music banned for a period of time (Bonds 2013). Though many know Mahler as a composer, he was actually best known as a composer (Robbins 2011).
Mahler's Symphony No. 1 is a strong example of a piece within the late Romantic era. As a whole, the symphony utilizes several characteristics common to this period. The harmonies are not traditional as in Classical music and are starting to move away from traditional tonality. The form does not follow a strict form found in earlier symphonies. The orchestra used to perform this symphony would have been very large, with new colors found that had not existed in earlier music. Just as many of his other compositions, his Symphony No. 1 demonstrates his political motivations. This is particularly found in the third movement at the very beginning, where Mahler employs the traditional children's song "Frere Jacques" as a funeral march. In this way, he makes a political statement and completely changes the sense of context. He is specifically employing both mockery and irony. In this, one may also hear references to Klezmer music beginning with the pick up notes into measure 39.
Compared to Dvorák's "New World Symphony," several interesting similarities arise. Both composers rely, at least in part, on political motivations for composition. Dvorák is politically motivated by nationalism. A difference found in the two is the use of harmony. Dvorák's symphony, in general, is slightly less progressive in terms of harmony and remains in a sweet style the majority of the time. Mahler's style of composition is very emotionally charged and drastically fluctuates on a regular basis.
Mahler is one of my favorite composers and I really enjoyed studying his Symphony No. 1 more in depth. His irony and humor he uses to bring out raw emotion in his music is very powerful. Because Mahler was not covered in class, I felt that it was important to at least mention him hear, thus influencing my choice of Mahler's Symphony No. 1.
"Mahler: Symphony No. 1 "The Titan"/ Bernstein- Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra." YouTube video, 55:21. Posted by "Josep489," upload January 24, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQFjDBFXN58&feature=kp
Mark Evans Bonds. A History of Music in Western Culture. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice-Hall, 2013.
International Mahler Gesellschaft (Editor). Symphony No. 1. Creative Commons Attribution. http://imslp.org/wiki/Symphony_No.1_(Mahler,_Gustav)
Allison Robbins. (2011, March) Romantic Period. Musicology 220. Lecture conducted from University of Tennessee, Knoxville.