Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 starts with a strong rhythmic motif played on sleigh bells mounted on a stick. Though the stick is shaken in a slow and thoughtful manner in the first section, the same instrument is deployed aggressively in the fourth and final movement. A soprano paints a heavenly tableau with a poem from a collection of folk songs, Des Knaben Wunderhorn. The rhythmic motif disrupts the idyll and introduces a passage that tells of numerous animals being slaughtered for a feast. Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 has a fairly classical structure, lasts no longer than an hour and deploys a relatively small instrumentation. Late Romantic pathos gives way to a new simplicity: a humorous second movement and an intimate, elevated adagio without the use of romantic imagery.
Symphony no. 4