Completed in 1902 and premiered two years later by the famed Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne, the Fifth Symphony was described by the composer Ernst Krenek as the work with which Mahler “enters upon the territory of the ‘new’ music of the twentieth century”. It certainly represents a departure from the lyricism of his previous three Wunderhorn symphonies; instead we hear a more intense polyphony, a ‘leaner’ sound and a more brilliant orchestration.

The first movement (Trauermarsch) has subsequently become an iconic excerpt for orchestral trumpeter players, and it is fitting that this arrangement weaves the archetypal first trumpet part among the many colours and textures of Mahler’s work. From the funereal exordium of the solo trumpet to its final, ghostly disintegration, we hear a perhaps hitherto unsurpassed emotional trajectory in Mahler’s music. Of the symphony, the composer wrote: “Heavens, what is the public to make of this chaos in which new worlds are forever being engendered, only to crumble into ruin the next moment? What are they to say to this primeval music, this foaming, roaring, raging sea of sound, to these dancing stars, to these breathtaking, iridescent, and flashing breakers?”

Parts included:

  • Trumpet in C
  • Piano

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