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The Symphony No. 1 in D major is a symphony by Gustav Mahler first composed between 1884 and 1888 (with heavy subsequent revisions through 1894). The initial premiere was in Budapest in 1889, where it was presented as a five-movement symphonic poem under the title "Symphonische Dichtung in zwei Teilen" (symphonic poem in two parts). In subsequent performances in Hamburg (1893) and Weimar (1894), the piece was titled "Titan," eine Tondichtung in Symphonie-form (a tone poem in the form of a symphony). After further revisions, Mahler eventually dropped the title, the descriptive movement titles, and the Andante second movement, titled "Blumine". The piece "premiered" again in Berlin in 1896 as the unnumbered "Symphony in D major", with a duration of approximately 55 minutes. When the symphony first appeared in print in 1899, it received its ultimate title, "Symphony No. 1".


In its final form, the symphony has four movements:

  1. Langsam, Schleppend (Slowly, dragging) Immer sehr gemächlich (very restrained throughout) D major
  2. Kräftig bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell (Moving strongly, but not too quickly), Recht gemächlich (restrained), a Trio – a Ländler-
  3. Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen (Solemnly and measured, without dragging), Sehr einfach und schlicht wie eine Volksweise (very simple, like a folk-tune), and Wieder etwas bewegter, wie im Anfang (something stronger, as at the start) – a funeral march based on the children's song "Frère Jacques" (or "Bruder Martin")
  4. Stürmisch bewegt- Energisch (Stormily agitated, energetic)

For the first 3 performances (Budapest, Hamburg and Weimar), there was an additional movement, known as the Blumine, between the first and second movements of the piece as it now stands. This movement was originally written for Mahler's incidental music for Joseph Scheffel's play Der Trompeter von Säckingen (1884), which, the Blumine aside, has since been lost. The addition of this movement appears to have been an afterthought, and Mahler discarded it after the Weimar performance in 1894, and it was not discovered again until 1966 when Donald Mitchell unearthed it. The following year, Benjamin Britten conducted the first performance of it since Mahler's time at Aldeburghmarker. The symphony is almost never played with this movement included today, although it is sometimes heard separately. In the 1970s Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra made the first recording of the symphony by a major orchestra to include Blumine movement. By now some 20 recordings exist that include Blumine, but most of them combine it with the revised edition of the other movements, thus making up a "blended" version of the symphony that was at no time authorised by Mahler.

Under this early five-movement scheme, the work was envisioned by Mahler as a large symphonic poem in two parts, and he wrote a programme to describe the piece, but without adding any further title for the 1889 Budapest premiere. The first part consisted of the first two movements of the symphony as it is now known plus the Blumine, and the second consisting of the funeral-march and finale. For the 1893 Hamburg and 1894 Weimar performances, Mahler gave the piece the title Titan after the novel by Jean Paul, although Mahler specified that the piece was not in any way "about" the book; the nickname is often used today, but properly only applies to those two versions and should not be used in connection with the definitive final version.

The work includes two themes from Mahler's song cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (1883–1885), and the available evidence also seems to indicate that Mahler recycled music from his abandoned opera project Rübezahl .

The opening of the third movement features a double bass soloist performing a variation on the theme of "Frère Jacques", distinguishing it as one of the few symphonic pieces to use the instrument in such a manner. Mahler uses the song, which he cites as "Bruder Martin", changed from major to minor, thus giving the piece the character of a funeral march. The mode change to minor is not an invention by Mahler, as is often believed, but rather the way this round was sung in the 19th and early 20th century in Austriamarker.


There are several manuscripts which document the revisions to which Mahler subjected the work:
  1. 1888, Leipzigmarker - The original autograph score, in Mahler's handwriting (location unknown, may no longer exist)
  2. 1889, Budapestmarker - The base layer in a copyist's handwriting is probably identical to the original autograph score. Over this, there are many revisions in Mahler's hand, and some whole sections deleted with new replacements added, in preparation for the 1889 Budapest premiere on November 20. Bound into two volumes, vol. 1 containing the 1st movement and Scherzo, vol. 2 containing the last movement; the "Blumine" and funeral march movements are missing—in fact, conflicting numbering of the Scherzo, and the smaller size of the paper on which "Blumine" is written, seems to indicate that the "Blumine" was not originally part of Mahler's conception, and that it was lifted whole from the 1884 Der Trompeter von Sakkingen score at some point between the symphony's completion in early 1888 and the Budapest premiere in late 1889. The entire symphony is scored for the standard symphonic orchestra of the time, with 2 each of all the woodwinds and 4 horns. In this version the piece was called "Symphonic-Poem in 2 Parts". (University of Western Ontario, Rose collection)
  3. 1893, Hamburgmarker - The base layer in Mahler's hand corresponds to the final version of the Budapest manuscript, and probably was the manuscript sent by Mahler to Schott as a Stichvorlage [engraver's copy] in 1891 in hopes of publication, and for the first time given a title: Aus dem Leben eines Einsamen ['from the life of a lonely-one']. Over this base layer, there are many revisions and new sections (including to "Blumine") added in 1893, in preparation for the second performance, in Hamburg on October 27. Contains all 5 movements; the funeral march was apparently lifted whole out of the 1889 manuscript. Orchestra has 3 each of the woodwinds. Just before the Hamburg performance, Mahler added the titles from Titan. (Yale Universitymarker, Osborn collection)
  4. 1894?, Hamburg - The base layer in a copyist's handwriting corresponds to the final version of the 1893 manuscript, with further revisions by Mahler. Probably prepared for the third performance, in Weimar on June 3. Pages containing the "Blumine" have been folded over, indicating deletion. Orchestra has 4 each of the woodwinds, and 3 additional horns. Still includes the titles from Titan. (New York Public Library, Bruno Walter collection)
  5. 1896?, Hamburg - The base layer in a copyist's handwriting, with revisions by Mahler. Probably prepared for 4th performance, in Berlin on March 16. Contains 4 movements ("Blumine" not included). Known from this point on as "Symphony No. 1". (Sold at auction by Sotheby's in 1984, presently inaccessible).
  6. 1898?, Viennamarker - In a copyist's handwriting, based on the final version of the 1894? manuscript, this is the Stichvorlage [engraver's copy], used as a basis for the first score published by Weinberger in February 1899. Probably prepared for the 5th performance, in Prague.

In 1906 an arrangement by Bruno Walter for piano four hands (two players at one piano) was published.


The symphony is scored for a large orchestra consisting of approximately 100 musicians. Unlike his later symphonies, Mahler does not use the entire forces in every movement. Several parts are used in the last movement only, especially in the woodwinds and brass.

  • brass: 7 horn (with "reinforcement" in the last movement)1, 4 trumpets in F (trumpets 1, 2 "from a wide distance" in mov. 1) (trumpet 1 doubled in ff passages in mov. 4)2, 3 trombones, tuba

1 Mahler instructs that several "reinforcement" horns join the horn section for the last 76 bars of the last movement. He also instructs all of the horns to stand up to get the largest possible sound out of the instruments.
2 Trumpet 3 doubles trumpet in B-flat "in the distance", offstage, for a brief passage in the beginning of the first movement.

3 2 timpanists, using a total of 5 drums: For movements 1 through 3, there is one timpanist with 29" and 26" drums, occasionally muffled.

In the last movement, the first timpanist plays these same drums, while the second timpanist utilizes three drums (29", 26" and 23").


  • World premiere: 1889 November 20, Budapestmarker, conducted by the composer. The work was poorly received.
  • German premieres:
  1. 1893 October 27, Hamburgmarker, conducted by the composer.
  2. 1894 June 3, Weimarmarker, conducted by the composer.
  3. 1896 March 16, Berlinmarker, conducted by the composer.
  4. 1899 March 8, Frankfurtmarker, conducted by the composer.
  • Czech premiere:
  1. 1898 March 3, Praguemarker, conducted by the composer.
  • Austrian premiere:
  1. 1900 November 18, Viennamarker, conducted by the composer.


  • 1899 February, Vienna, Weinberger.
  • 1906 May, Vienna, Universal Edition.
  • 1967 Vienna, Universal Edition (critical edition).


Further reading

  • David Hurwitz, The Mahler Symphonies: An Owner's Manual (includes 1 CD), Amadeus Press (2004), ISBN 1574670999

External links

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