When I first began to study the Piano Quartet by
Mahler as a young pianist, I became intrigued by the many contrasts in it
presented. The multiple doublings and repeats of the thematic material as well as
the often incomplete harmonic chord settings, provide it with a sense of
infinity, an almost lingering development. At the same time, the music evolves
while the repeats suggest not a confirmation of what has been but to what will
To performers the quartet at first glance seems
self-explanatory. But when you study the music extensively, it keeps raising
questions on its musical direction and its dynamic and harmonic development.
These questions create a challenge which captivates the musician with each
By simply rearranging the voices, adjusting the tempo
slightly or changing the dynamic course of the theme, Mahler creates an endless
range of shades that are always related to the original theme in the piano in
the first few bars.
A contradiction that still astonishes me as a pianist
as well as a composer relates to the dramatic development of this piece. The
larger the dynamic and harmonic range and the more extensive the
accompanimental elements become, the simpler the dramatic course and outline
seem to be. On the other hand, during the relatively unaffected and sober
sections with small dynamic differences and a slow harmonic progression, the
dramatic weight appears to be more intense and of a greater significance within
the complete piece.
As a composer I was able to identify with and
recognise myself in most of this Quartet. Nonetheless, the meaning or sense of
many segments of the quartet is still a mystery to me: Where is Mahler heading?
What is the question, and maybe even more important: is there an answer?
The mystery was never solved. It is in my opinion the force that is always
present in Mahler’s music.
To be given the opportunity to orchestrate a piece
that I have been intrigued by and has been an inspiration to me as a composer
as well as a pianist for over a decade, feels like a true gift.
When I performed the Quartet, I often decided to
combine the finished first movement by Mahler with the Schnittke version on the
original sketch of the second movement. The short sketch Mahler made for the
intended second movement is incredibly beautiful and delicate in structure and
I wanted to perform it as much as possible.
When I started to work on the orchestration, I decided
to first search for ways to incorporate it into the orchestration of the one
movement Klaviersatz in such a way that the two movements become one. Already
when I was performing the piece as a pianist, I tried to integrate the sketch
within the first movement since I felt it was directly linked to it. At the same
time the first movement by itself is a piece on its own. In my feeling this
movement ends with a large question mark, but the question it leaves you with
does not require an answer.
Orchestrating the Klavierquartett
finally offered me the opportunity to explore if my thoughts were sensible.
Where to insert it became clear instantly: directly at the beginning of the
recapitulation where it literally evolves out of the triplets of the first
movement and in the end it overlaps with the continuation of the first
movement, like a hint towards the answer the music is searching for.
This way the circle in my feeling is closed.