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  • 1 Liszt Academy of Music Liszt Ferenc tér 8 H-1061 Budapest Hungary
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This study offers a multilevel analysis of the form of the third movement of Mahler’s Second Symphony providing three frameworks (those of a sophisticated trio form, a bipartite idiosyncratic form, and an imaginary, ‘endless’ form). Conceiving of the formal dimensions of the Scherzo of Mahler’s Second Symphony as ontological models, I will contextualize these with reference to the writings of E.T.A. Hoffmann, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. Among the new discoveries of this investigation, I will outline the implications of three hitherto neglected circumstances: first, the movement’s first extended unit itself constitutes a self-contained symphonic scherzo movement; next, the movement can be described as two succeeding permutations of the same set of thematic materials; finally, there is a crucial recurrence suggesting the infinitude of the form. Instead of creating an ill-conceived dichotomy between form as a secondary structure and the meaningful ‘narrative’ in negotiation with formal questions, I wish to regard form as a primary source of a work’s meaning. At the same time, I wish to regard the form of the movement as an efficient means of channelling its dialogue with the genre of scherzo. Listened to as a composer’s self-positioning in the field of the masters of symphony, the movement reveals Mahler’s successful attempt at breaking away from the Brucknerian model of scherzo and, at the same time, proudly parading his virtuosity in applying some elements of that model in a different context.

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