Gustav Mahler and psychasthenia : a musical and psychological investigation of the Kinder-Totenlieder

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Carbaugh, Sharon S.
Ewart, Phillip S.
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Thesis (D.A.)
School of Music
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An in-depth study of Gustav Mahler's preoccupation with death was the foundational purpose for this dissertation. The song cycle Kinder-Totenlieder was the main composition examined, however, other works were mentioned to provide further proof of his obsession.The content of Chapter One presents Mahler's biographical data. Death is traced through his family history with the demise of brothers and sisters and his own beloved daughter, Putzi. An analysis by Sigmund Freud discusses his relationship with his wife, Alma, and his mother. Another area of interest includes his feelings towards his siblings, especially his brother, Otto, who committed suicide.Chapter Two concentrates on poetry, musical form and orchestration in regards to the Kinder-Totenlieder,. Specific musical examples are given which symbolize the underlying theme of death. Theories as to why the song cycle was written and whether it was a prophecy concerning his daughter's death are stated. A comparison of Rueckert's original poems and Mahler's textual changes in these poems are studied.Chapter Three investigates Mahler's other works, both vocal and symphonic, involving the theme of death. In consideration of the symphonic works, poetry, program notes, and motives taken from vocal works are viewed. Attention is given to the poetry and orchestration in the vocal works. His comments scribbled on the manuscript of his Svnphony No. 10 highlight his fear of death. Lastly, comments concerning his own funeral arrangements and burial bring into focus the despair over his own inevitable death.ConclusionMahler's preoccupation with death is reflected in almost all of his compositions. The tension felt within the music represents his struggle between life and death. Ultimately, he knew that death would win, but his compositions would hopefully bring him to the immortality he sought.