Talk:Symphony No. 6 (Mahler)

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I seem to recall that Ratz’ edition claimed that the Scherzo‐Andante order he claimed was based, not only on Alma Mahler’s statements about her husband’s intentions, but on the relation of the keys — C minor (opening the finale transitionally, in a way) being closer to the end of the Andante than it is to the A minor drumbeats that end the Scherzo. Of course, the scherzo — andante leap is a tritone no matter what, but that was, I seem to recall, one of his points also. ?!?? Schisselbowl listen 21:31, Dec 21, 2004 (UTC)

I don't know what Ratz says, but it is true that the transition from the Andante to the Finale is closer in key relationship than from the Scherzo to the Finale. However, since Mahler is known to have performed the work with Andante second, I don't know why this should be seen as a point on either side of the argument. Who's to say Mahler didn't on reflection prefer more distant key relationships? --Tdent 20:31, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

Isn't it normally performed with the Andante third? I've always thoought (and these may be misguided musings!) that the structural relationship between the first three movements of Mahler's sixth (with the Andante third) is similar to that in Beethoven's ninth.--Nmcmurdo 14:36, 22 October 2006 (UTC)

The information about the order of movements seems a little unequivocal. Jeffrey Katz is quoted (in favour of Andante-Scherzo) but Henry-Louis de la Grange (in favour of Scherzo-Andante) is not. Moreoever de la Grange asserts that in the 1907 Viennese premiere Mahler reverted to Scherzo-Andante, a point which Katz ignores. It seems to me this section should only report the debate, and that the most recent Critical Edition is Andante-Scherzo. But as it stands it seems a little one-sided.-- 15:18, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

The last article in the external links section( seems to disprove La Grange. (Full disclosure: I am for andante-scherzo.)1xx5ab (talk) 07:09, 21 January 2013 (UTC)
I don't think it's a question of 'proving' or 'disproving'. This is an artwork, not a mathematical theorem. The tenor of Katz's article seems to fluctuate between thinking that it is, and imagining that there is some sort of argument to be won. We will probably never know for sure what Mahler's 'final' thoughts were, but it does seem correct to report that the symphony had two verified movement orders during his lifetime, and as such, following La Grange and Mitchell, should be regarded as being two-versioned. No-one disputes the multi-versioned existence of Bruckner's symphonies, and he suffered much more musical interference Mahler could ever have had from Alma, even posthumously.--Stevouk (talk) 20:37, 8 September 2015 (UTC)

The "Structure" section gives Scherzo-Andante, while the "Composition" section gives Andante-Scherzo. They should probably be made consistent. Sho Uemura 14:39, 22 April 2007 (UTC)

The article says that the movement order question remains "hotly debated". However, in the July 2011 issue of the British magazine Gramophone, critic Edward Seckerson upholds the Scherzo-Andante order, saying that "We now know that Mahler did revert to the original order" (pg. 59). He doesn't explain how this came to be "known", though. Any information about this ? MUSIKVEREIN (talk) 16:06, 10 July 2011 (UTC)


Well, I listened to the symphony, and I swore I could hear a guitar in there somewhere, but the orchestration as it's written on this page doesn't say there's a guitar in there anywhere. So now I'm stumped. I swear there's a guitar in there, but I'm not sure if I should add it into the page, as I don't have a source. Thoughts? --Kschwerdt514 20:00, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

It would have been helpful if you had said something about where you thought you heard it. As it is, I can only suggest that you are mis-identifying the sound of a harp played with a plectrum, near the start of the Finale. Pfistermeister 13:08, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
You know, on listening to it again, it does sound a blit like the low range of a harp. Sorry about the confusion. By the way, what I thought was a guitar was, in fact, near the beginning of the finale. --Kschwerdt514 18:01, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

Unless my ears deceive me, isn't there a xylophone featured in the first movement?--Gruesome Pet 15.25 18 June (UTC)

Are you sure it is not a celesta? — Andy W. (talk/contrb.) 15:46, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
I think you are right. Someone did not change the instrumentation correctly, but I am not adding it back in yet. Someone else can go ahead if they want. — Andy W. (talk/contrb.) 15:50, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Hammer blows[edit]

First, I would think there should be more discussion of the question of the deleted third hammer blow, even if there seems to be a good deal less controversy over that than over the order of the middle movements.

Second, a propos the whole issue of how to get them to sound in performance, David Zinman, when he performed this work in Baltimore, spoke of his solution to the balance and acoustical problems. He got one of his sons to create the effect on a synthesizer, which was then played over the sound system in the hall. The sight of the percussionist raising the sledgehammer and bringing it down on a wooden platform was at least as much a visual effect as a sonic one.

Finally, in the name of full disclosure, I have never warmed to this symphony very much. --Wspencer11 (talk to me...) 15:26, 16 August 2006 (UTC)

Benjamin Zander in his commentary with performance of the Symphony with the Philharmonia indicated that the hammer blows were played with a huge wooden crate and then smashed with a plumber's lead pipe; a deafaning sound and very loud. Perhaps this could be added somewhere in the article. Justin Tokke 21:47, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

"The One with the Big Scary Hammer"... My name is Tubist1996... I am a Mahler scholar... I took out this section in the first sentence of the first paragraph because this symphony is not referred to in any serious work of scholarship as "The One with the Big Scary Hammer". This is false information and it does not belong in this article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tubist1996 (talkcontribs) 07:05, 30 September 2009 (UTC)


Do you really think than because the American... and Canadian... say, it is not the most popular, Is that really relevant? what about Europe, France, England —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:24, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

This isn't relevant. I removed the text. DJRafe (talk) 14:34, 31 October 2015 (UTC)

Dmitri Mitropoulos' movement order[edit]

Despite this article placing Dmitri Mitropoulos firmly in the "Andante/Scherzo" camp, I have at least two recordings of him conducting this Scherzo/Andante. Here is an entry for one of them on

As you can see from the track listings, the order is Scherzo/Andante.

2601:9:2780:1E3:221:E9FF:FEE0:8C3C (talk) 10:15, 6 February 2014 (UTC)

I have a different issue of that same 1959 Cologne performance ("Great Conductors of the 20th Century"). Yes, it is Scherzo-Andante, and the liner notes specifically mention that as Mitropoulos's choice. However, his 1955 New York broadcast (which I don't own) is apparently Andante-Scherzo. I think the table should have a third column for conductors who performed it both ways, but for now I am removing the mentions of Mitropoulos. Oldkentuckyshark (talk) 01:04, 21 February 2014 (UTC)

Recordings and performances section[edit]

I propose that this section be confined simply to recordings, which are much less trouble (and bandwidth) to document. If the article tries to capture all performances with the inner movements in either order, the article will evolve into a laundry list of performances and become unmanageable. Thoughts are welcome. Thanks, DJRafe (talk) 14:34, 31 October 2015 (UTC)

I'm not sure I agree entirely with the above suggestion, but I would like to see some sort of dated chronology in the list. In view of the controversy over the order of the inner movements, it's surely of interest that the first recording, under F Charles Adler, who did actually work with Mahler himself,though apparently not on performances of the Sixth, places the Andante second - as did Mahler himself. It's of more than passing interest that neither van Beinum, nor Flipse, both of whom must have known of Mengelberg's practice in 1919 (how often did he perform the work on other occasions?) didn't follow it. (talk) 11:48, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

I agree that the current list looks indeed much like a laundry list. There seems to be no sorting criterium at all, and some almost identical forces could surely be removed. I agree that a chronological list would add valuable information. May be a sortable table might be more helpful. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 22:43, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
Agreed that the format of the recordings list is not ideal. However, IMHO, it's considerably better/less worse than it was, because I tried to confine this section to recordings than have it be a potential list of all live performances that choose one order over the other. The most recent recordings additions look like additions from rather isolated labels from an Amazon search. DJRafe (talk) 23:51, 15 June 2016 (UTC)

Schumann re-scoring question[edit]

Is it possible that Mahler's rescoring of Schumann's Manfred Overture - and the Symphonies (not easy to find dates for these) - occurred during the period on which he was evolving the Sixth Symphony? (talk) 10:03, 9 April 2016 (UTC)

Alban Berg quote & translation[edit]

On the English translation of Alban Berg's quote about Mahler's Symphony No 6, whilst I realise that "despite" is a more literally accurate translation of the German word 'trotz', Berg's overall sentiment does not lend itself to use of the word "despite". At the risk of stating the very obvious, Berg clearly meant to say that for him, the Sixth Symphony in all of what we now call 'classical music' is Mahler's, except that this would be to ignore Beethoven's Sixth Symphony. Other ways of paraphrasing Berg's quote in English, to capture this sentiment, would be:

  • 'The 'Pastoral' notwithstanding, there is only one Sixth.' / 'There is only one Sixth, the 'Pastoral' notwithstanding.'
  • 'Besides the 'Pastoral', there is only one Sixth.' / 'There is only one Sixth, besides the 'Pastoral'.'
  • 'Except for the 'Pastoral', there is only one Sixth.'

The English word "despite" has a more dismissive air about it, and, to my mind, is not what Berg meant with respect to Beethoven. Cheers, DJRafe (talk) 17:33, 27 December 2016 (UTC)

Changed it again to "despite" before having seen DJRafe's comment. I realise that Berg's comment is obviously not intended as a swipe to Beethoven, but the use of the word "except" strikes me as kind of a "whitewashing" of a rather "politically incorrect" sentiment, as Berg does not really take care to affirm the hallowed reputation of the Pastoral before praising Mahler's Sixth, but rather provocatively pits one symphony against the other. Furthermore, to my mind, the use of the word "doch" seems to affirm that Berg intended the comment as deliberately contrarian with regard to conventional wisdom. However, if "despite" turns out to be widely considered as problematic, DJRafe's clever suggestion of "notwithstanding" might serve as a good compromise solution. (talk) 00:44, 21 February 2017 (UTC)