Mahler: quintuplets, and gender

I’m so permanently immersed in Mahler 2, 5, 6, and 9 that I sometimes neglect the 3rd symphony:

Here, apart from the overwhelming overall effect, I’d merely like to zoom in on a tiny detail (as I did with the syncopated percussion cadential pattern in the hymns of Yanggao Daoists): the use of quintuplets, often informed by Mahler’s instruction nicht eilen! (“Don’t rush!”). An example from the finale (fig.22 from 1.33.11):

Mahler 3

The figure returns at 1.33.42, and then with the full orchestra led by blazing trumpets from 1.39.47.

Quintuplets play a similar role in climactic moments of the 9th symphony, like this passage (from 1.06.09 on the Bernstein performance here):

Mahler 9——and just dig all those string glissandos. Such a rhythm creates a quite different effect from the more conventional alternative, like this magnificent recapitulation on the horns (for the major 7th leap, see here):

Mahler 9 horns

It is as if the quintuplets are struggling to emerge from the stone like Michelangelo’s Slaves. For further instances, see here and here.

*Historical note: I chose these versions mainly for Bernstein, but it won’t necessarily strike the casual listener/viewer that there’s something else remarkable about them. The Vienna Phil is one of several orchestras that haven’t exactly led the way in gender equality: permanent posts were only given to female musicians in 1997, and even by 2013 the orchestra only had six female members. Historically authentic, sure, but…

21 thoughts on “Mahler: quintuplets, and gender

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