Primeval Light. Very solemn but simple (In the manner of a chorale). After the “tormenting” questions of the opening movement and the grotesque dance of the Scherzo, humankind is freed from uncertainty and doubt. The Wunderhorn-Lied brings with it the first ray of a light that will shine in glory at the end of the finale. A solemn chorale, gently stated on the brass, affirms the innocent faith of childhood; later on, an expanded version of this same ascending theme will become the final movement’s “Resurrection” theme.

Movement 4: “Urlicht”. Sehr feierlich, aber schlicht.

Movement 4: “Urlicht”. Sehr feierlich, aber schlicht.

Urlicht manuscript, Stefan Zweig (1881-1942)

A revised orchestration of ‘Urlicht’ was incorporated into the Second Symphony as movement IV, and the composition was first performed as part of that work in 1895. Though no manuscript of the voice and piano version of ‘Urlicht’ has survived, it seems likely that this was composed in 1892 (Mitchell). 

A letter of 1895 from Mahler to Hermann Behn (Blaukopf; Kaplan p. 81) indicates that he had composed the song before he decided to orchestrate it or to include it in the symphony. During the summer of 1893, when the present manuscript was written, he was also working on the first three movements of the symphony. But the orchestral forces employed in Zweig MS 49 and the ‘No. 7’ on f. 1 relate it to the series of orchestrated ‘Wunderhorn’ songs (Mitchell). 

It seems that the Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) manuscript represents Mahler’s first thoughts on the orchestration of his setting of ‘Urlicht’. The orchestration in the publication of the setting as one of the orchestral versions of songs from ‘Das Knaben Wunderhorn’ has most of the smaller-scale characteristics found in Zweig MS 49 (though it employs four rather than two horns), but differs in many details. 

The scoring in the Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) manuscript is for smaller forces than the version used in the symphony (and in which it was first published), with in particular fewer horns and one harp rather than two. The Kaplan manuscript of this movement has the additional harp though not the expanded brass parts of the final scoring for the symphony; it incorporates a number of the revisions made in pencil to the present manuscript, and has further revisions of some of them more nearly to approach the final version.

For example, in Zweig MS 49 the original vocal line of the two bars with the words ‘und wollt’ mich abweisen’, written in ink, has been scratched out and revised in pencil; the Kaplan score has on the voice line at this point the original ink version from Zweig MS 49, but on a separate stave underneath a version combining the pencil revision from the Zweig MS (in the first bar) with the final version (in the second bar). Zweig MS 49 is one of the items added to the Collection after Zweig’s death.

But Mahler was a familiar and much admired figure: Zweig contributed a poem, ‘Der Dirigent’ to a volume published in Mahler’s honour in 1910, and himself owned at least two Mahler manuscripts. In February 1934 he presented to the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem, as an addition to letters and papers he had given the previous December, a manuscript of sketches and drafts for the first movement of the Second Symphony: it comprises a single page of sketches in short score and 21 (not all consecutive) pages of drafts in partial full score; this is presumably the manuscript he lists in ‘Meine Autographen-Sammlung’ (in Martin Bircher (ed.), Stefan Zweig’s Welt der Autographen (Zurich, 1996), p. 39).

In addition, a piano score of the fourth movement of the Third Symphony, ‘O Mensch! Gieb acht!’, was put up for sale in 1936 in the first of the Hinterberger catalogues (cat. IX no. 267) and purchased with Zweig’s approval by Gisela Selden-Goth, a fellow collector.

1893. Movement 4: “Urlicht”. Sehr feierlich, aber schlicht. Autograph full score. Written in ink on systems of 16 to 18 staves. Music begins f. 2r; tempo directions ‘Sehr feierlich aber [corrected in pencil from ‘und’] schlicht!’ (f. 2r) – ‘Rit.’ (f. 4v), then, added in pencil ‘Drängend!’ (f. 5r) – ‘Molto rit! Wieder langsam wie am Anfang!’ (f. 5v). Bar lines ruled in pencil throughout. Corrections and alterations in ink; numerous revisions and annotations in pencil. Title-page (f. 1r) ‘Urlicht +++ / (aus des Knaben [‘h’ crossed out in pencil] Wunderhorn) / No. 7 / für eine Singstim[m]e / mit Orchester / von / Gustav Mahler’. Dated at end (f. 6r) ‘Steinbach / 19 Juli 1893’. Scored for 2 flutes/piccolos, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, harp, bell (‘Glocke’), and strings. The number of horns written against the first system (f. 2r) is corrected from 3 to 2. Stefan Zweig (1881-1942).

1893. Movement 4: “Urlicht”. Sehr feierlich, aber schlichtStefan Zweig (1881-1942).

1893. Movement 4: “Urlicht”. Sehr feierlich, aber schlichtStefan Zweig (1881-1942).

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