Many present-day concerts and recordings of Mahler’s First Symphony adopt the title Titan, but in reality the composer himself performed it as such only twice, and his five-movement version of Titan has never before been published. Universal Edition, in conjunction with the Mahler Neue Kritische Gesamtausgabe (New Complete Critical Edition) is proud to make this score available for the first time.
Mahler composed the work early in 1888 at white-hot speed in Leipzig, where he experienced his first success as a composer by completing Carl Maria von Weber’s unfinished opera Die drei Pintos (The Three Pintos), during which he fell passionately in love with the wife of Weber’s grandson. As Mahler later put it, Marion von Weber’s ‘musical, luminous being dedicated to the loftiest ideals’ inspired him to resume the composition of large-scale original works, which he had not done since his youthful cantata Das klagende Lied of 1880.
The result was a five-movement ‘Symphonic Poem’ in two parts that Mahler premiered in November 1889 in Budapest, where he had become director of the Royal Hungarian Opera. It was so poorly received that ‘I went about as though diseased, or an outlaw’. Following his move to Hamburg, Mahler substantially revised the work, entitling it Titan: A Tone Poem in Symphony Form and adding some of the now well-known titles to the five movements in the freshly copied autograph manuscript. In the Hamburg program leaflet for the performance on 27 October 1893 they were called: Spring without end, Blumine, In full sail, Stranded. A funeral march in the manner of Callot, and Dall inferno al Paradiso. Mahler also sprinkled into his programmatic commentary several allusions to the writings of his favorite author, Jean Paul Richter, and revealed that, rather astonishingly, the fourth movement was inspired by ‘the parodistic picture, well known to all children in Austria, The Hunter’s Funeral Procession’, in which the beasts of the forest accompany the dead woodsman’s coffin to the grave. This performance was only marginally more successful than the Budapest premiere.
Titan was originally scored for triple winds, four horns, four trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (triangle, Turkish cymbals, bass drum) harp, and strings. Mahler had the work reproduced by his regular Hamburg copyist, and this was the score from which he conducted both performances of Titan. He began revising the instrumentation almost immediately; by the time of the second performance at the festival of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein in Weimar on 3 June 1894, he had expanded the orchestra by three horns, an additional oboe and E flat clarinet, and tam-tam. While the audience reaction in Weimar was mixed, the reviews were almost entirely negative, with several critics underscoring both the seeming disparity between the programmatic commentary and the course of the music, and the bizarre nature of the last two movements (funeral march and finale). This Hamburg/Weimar copyist’s manuscript represents Mahler’s latest thoughts on the work as Titan, and is accordingly the basis for the Neue Kritische Gesamtausgabe edition. Mahler subsequently dropped the descriptive titles, discarded the ‘Blumine’ movement, further revised the instrumentation, and subsequently performed the work as Symphonie in D-Dur für grosses Orchester (Symphony in D major for large orchestra).
Our first edition of Titan includes the history of its genesis, reviews of the Hamburg and Weimar performances, a discussion of the programs and underlying ideas of the work, color illustrations of significant sources, and an extensive critical report that details variants, problematic passages, and all editorial interpolations.