Poll

What's your preferred running order of the middle movements of Mahler's Sixth Symphony?

Scherzo then Andante
42 (64.6%)
Andante then Scherzo
8 (12.3%)
I like both orders
4 (6.2%)
I'm undecided
1 (1.5%)
I don't care
10 (15.4%)

Total Members Voted: 48

Author Topic: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?  (Read 8523 times)

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Mark

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There's an article by conductor James Conlon in this month's Gramophone, in which he discusses the thorny problem of the order of the Andante and Scherzo in Mahler's Sixth Symphony. As many will know, Mahler originally had it as: Scherzo/Andante. But then he reversed that order ... and at his death, that's how things stood.

Of course, later, on the authority of his Wife, Alma, the order was apparently reversed again, back to the way Mahler first had it. Yet, some seemingly disputed this 'evidence', and have continued the practice of Andante/Scherzo. Advocates of this order include Sir Simon Rattle, Colin Matthews and Norman Del Mar. Those conductors against include Mengelberg (who had the authority of Alma for the change back), Leonard Bernstein and Bernard Haitink.

Conlon himself still seems undecided: he makes a good argument both ways. For myself, and after listening to versions which run the movements in both orders, I have to say I'm for the Scherzo/Andante option. Somehow, the monumental last movement has greater impact if the Andante preceeds it. Besides which, the Scherzo sounds to me like an extension of the first movement, and therefore all the more logical when following it.

What's your view?

Offline Cato

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2007, 05:00:40 AM »
Second-guessing is usually wrong.

I consider the Scherzo the weakest movement, but it does flow better from the first movement, and the Andante flows better into the last one.
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Offline not edward

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2007, 05:57:12 AM »
Scherzo, then andante.

The similarities of the first movement and the scherzo aren't a problem with me, and the finale is all the more effective when following the island of tranquility that is the slow movement.

For me, an ideal interpretation of this symphony is one where hope is not extinguished until the final hammer blow: I think placing the slow movement directly before the finale aids this.
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Mark

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2007, 07:15:54 AM »
For me, an ideal interpretation of this symphony is one where hope is not extinguished until the final hammer blow: I think placing the slow movement directly before the finale aids this.

And I agree, absolutely.

Offline Keemun

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2007, 07:28:14 AM »
I'm undecided because I've never given it any thought.  Malher's 6th is one of those symphonies that is frequently recommended by Mahler fans (of which I am one) but I cannot seem to get into. :-\ But I keep trying because I'm stubborn like that.  8)   
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Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2007, 07:34:13 AM »
We discussed this at some length in the old forum. My preference for Scherzo/Andante hasn't changed. Henry-Louis de La Grange (after surmising that Mahler and Mengelberg discussed the movement order in 1909 with Mahler still unsure and undecided) sums up my feelings quite well:

"The resemblance between the opening of the first and second movements (a repeated ostinato on A in the low strings) was probably called to Mahler's attention as a weakness by one of his friends and disciples who had not yet realized how convincing this similiarity can sound in a work in which everything is exceptional. Furthermore, the sequence of keys (E flat-C minor), and the need for the moment of repose provided by the meditative Andante before the hurricane of the Finale, seem to be all-powerful arguments in favour of placing the Andante next to the Finale. Moreover, the ironic and distorted Scherzo, which denies the exultant coda of the first movement of which it is a parody or caricature, loses its meaning altogether when it is not heard immediately after it."

Besides, Szell, Solti and Karajan played it that way. That's an uttlerly compelling and convincing argument.

Sarge

« Last Edit: November 13, 2007, 08:20:41 AM by Sergeant Rock »
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Offline AnthonyAthletic

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2007, 07:46:25 AM »
I have to say I'm for the Scherzo/Andante option. Somehow, the monumental last movement has greater impact if the Andante preceeds it. Besides which, the Scherzo sounds to me like an extension of the first movement, and therefore all the more logical when following it.

Absolutely  ;D

But when I get a recording the Andante/Scherzo way I wouldn't think of reprogramming the cd player to put the scherzo 2nd.  IIRC Jansons was the last person to do the 6th Andante/Scherzo, seems a little strange to hear it this way after what now is the norm.

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Offline MishaK

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2007, 08:05:15 AM »
I'd have to  say I prefer Scherzo/Andante. That's what Haitink did here in Chicago a few weeks ago and it was by far structurally the most compelling performance I have ever heard.



Mark G. Simon

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2007, 08:16:01 AM »
I've read a booklet by Gilbert Kaplan that makes a very convincing case for Andante/Scherzo.

I still prefer Scherzo/Andante. As has been said by others here, I think the finale flows more naturally out of the Andante. For one thing, it begins, not directly in A minor, but on a Ab7 chord in first inversion. It sounds to me like Mahler did this specifically to link with the Andante, which is in Ab major.

The Scherzo is the logical follower of the opening Allegro by being in A minor. Following the A major close of the first movement, the sequence repeats the major/minor juxtaposition which is one of the important motives of the symphony.

Mark

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2007, 08:54:05 AM »
We discussed this at some length in the old forum.

I must've missed that discussion. :-[

Quote
My preference for Scherzo/Andante hasn't changed. Henry-Louis de La Grange (after surmising that Mahler and Mengelberg discussed the movement order in 1909 with Mahler still unsure and undecided) sums up my feelings quite well:

"The resemblance between the opening of the first and second movements (a repeated ostinato on A in the low strings) was probably called to Mahler's attention as a weakness by one of his friends and disciples who had not yet realized how convincing this similiarity can sound in a work in which everything is exceptional. Furthermore, the sequence of keys (E flat-C minor), and the need for the moment of repose provided by the meditative Andante before the hurricane of the Finale, seem to be all-powerful arguments in favour of placing the Andante next to the Finale. Moreover, the ironic and distorted Scherzo, which denies the exultant coda of the first movement of which it is a parody or caricature, loses its meaning altogether when it is not heard immediately after it."

Thanks for this. Very interesting.

I'm going to retag my Jansons/Royal Concertgebouw Live MP3s so that the Andante comes third. 0:)

EmpNapoleon

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2007, 10:07:54 AM »
When I saw James Conlon conduct the 6th, he said that he was quite convinced of Andante then Scherzo because of a very short book/pamphlet.  He didn't say the title or author, but did say that any other way is wrong.

Mark G. Simon

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2007, 10:17:57 AM »
When I saw James Conlon conduct the 6th, he said that he was quite convinced of Andante then Scherzo because of a very short book/pamphlet.  He didn't say the title or author, but did say that any other way is wrong.

That would be Gilbert Kaplan's The correct movement order in Mahler's Sixth symphony. Kaplan Foundation, New York 2004, ISBN 0974961302.

It does make a very convincing case that Mahler's final preference was for Andante/Scherzo.

Mark

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2007, 12:11:37 PM »
When I saw James Conlon conduct the 6th, he said that he was quite convinced of Andante then Scherzo because of a very short book/pamphlet.  He didn't say the title or author, but did say that any other way is wrong.

Yet in the article, he leaves you in no doubt that whatever he thinks intellectually, he still feels emotionally connected to the Scherzo/Andante order.

Offline jochanaan

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #13 on: November 13, 2007, 01:05:45 PM »
If I were leading it, I'd do the Scherzo first.  My thinking tends to follow de la Grange's.
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Offline MichaelRabin

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #14 on: November 13, 2007, 01:29:07 PM »
I am with the Scherzo/Andante camp too. Benjamin Zander also makes out a case for this on his Telarc CD discussion as well.

Larry Rinkel

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #15 on: November 13, 2007, 01:42:44 PM »
Besides, Szell, Solti and Karajan played it that way. That's an uttlerly compelling and convincing argument.

Boulez and Levine too. For all the reasons cited, I find S/A more convincing.

Offline drogulus

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #16 on: November 13, 2007, 03:45:46 PM »


I still prefer Scherzo/Andante. As has been said by others here, I think the finale flows more naturally out of the Andante. For one thing, it begins, not directly in A minor, but on a Ab7 chord in first inversion. It sounds to me like Mahler did this specifically to link with the Andante, which is in Ab major.

The Scherzo is the logical follower of the opening Allegro by being in A minor. Following the A major close of the first movement, the sequence repeats the major/minor juxtaposition which is one of the important motives of the symphony.

      This is pretty convincing. Regardless of what Mahler finally decided, it sounds as though the music was written with S/A in mind. I personally find the "calm before the storm" argument persuasive. It sounds right to me, too. I believe Zander supports this as well.
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greg

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #17 on: November 13, 2007, 03:54:08 PM »
Scherzo, Andante all the way  8)
(hey, that rhymes)

I'm undecided because I've never given it any thought.  Malher's 6th is one of those symphonies that is frequently recommended by Mahler fans (of which I am one) but I cannot seem to get into. :-\ But I keep trying because I'm stubborn like that.  8)   
i think it's taken me at least 10 listens until i could say that i actually enjoy the last movement lol
the structure is so hard to understand, and the music just seems to go everywhere for 30 minutes, just takes a while to get


Offline MishaK

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #18 on: November 13, 2007, 04:14:19 PM »
Scherzo, Andante all the way  8)
(hey, that rhymes)

Only with very American pronunciation of "Andante".  ;)

Lilas Pastia

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Re: Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Scherzo then Andante ... or the reverse?
« Reply #19 on: November 13, 2007, 05:27:26 PM »
I suggest  a thread on Beethoven's 9th; Andante-Scherzo: why not?

Truth of the matter is: the jury's still out on this. Mahler himself wasn't sure. If such a major thing as movement order cannot be decided with absolute certainty by the composer, why bother? Let the conductor decide. He can then make his own choices about tempo relationships and interpretive emphasis derive accordingly.