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Emily Grossman

Glossary of Terms for Mahler

April 1, 2011 at 7:04 PM

The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra will be performing Mahler's 2nd symphony this month; I received the music in the mail yesterday and pulled it out for a run-through.  Having never played Mahler before, I found the German markings both mysterious and amusing.  I took a guess at them before digging out the translations that had been sent with the music.  For the most part, I'd been surprisingly correct.

Here is the glossary of terms, for those of you who will be playing Mahler any time soon and may need help:

(Thanks, David McCormick!)


 Langsam – Slowly

 Schleppend – Slowly

 Dampfer auf – Slowly

 Mit Dampfer – Slowly

 Allmahlich in das Hauptzeitmass ubergehen – Do not look at the conductor

 Im Anfang sehr gemaechlich – In intense inner torment

 Alle Betonungen sehr zart - With more intense inner torment

 Getheilt (geth.) – Out of tune

 Von hier an in sehr allmaehlicher aber stetiger Steigerung bis zum Zeichen – From this point on, the spit valves should be emptied with ever-increasing emotion

 Hier ist ein frisches belebtes Zeitmass eingetreten – Slowly

 Haupttempo – Slowly

 Noch ein wenig beschleunigend – Slowing down but with a sense of speeding up

 Immer noch zurueckhaltend - With steadily decreasing competence

 Sehr gemaechlich – With indescribably horrific inner torment

 Etwas bewegter, aber immer noch sehr ruhig – Somewhat louder, though still inaudible as before

 Alle Betonungen sehr zart – With smallish quantities of fairly mild inner torment

 Gemaechlich – Intermission

 Ganz unmerklich etwas zurueckhaltend - Slowly

 Etwas gemaechlicher als zuvor – Slowly

 Von hier ab unmerklich breiter werden – As if wild animals were gnawing on your liver

 Ohne cresc. – Without toothpaste

 Immer noch etwas zurueckhaltend – Slowly

 Vorwaerts draengend – Slowly

 Hauptzeitmass - Slowly

 Allmaehlich etwas lebhafter – Screaming in agony

 Ohne Nachschl(age) – Without milk (sugar)

 Kraeftig bewegt – Slowly

 Mit dem Holze zu streichen – Like a hole in the head

 Mit Parodie – Viola solo

 Sehr einfach und schlicht, wie eine Volksweise – Slowly

 Daempfer ab - Eyes closed

 Ploetzlich viel schneller – Even more ploddingly

 Den ersten Ton scharf herausgehoben – Do not play until the buzzer sounds

 Am Griffbrett – As if in tune

 Aeusserst zart, aber ausdrucksvoll – Radiantly joyful, despite the itching

 Wieder zurueckhaltend - Increasingly decreasing

 Noch breiter als vorher – Better late than never

 Nicht eilen – No eels

 Allmaehlich (unmerklich) etwas zurueckhaltend – Much faster (slower) than conductor

 Lang gestrichen – Heads up

 Lang gezogen – Heads back down

 Die werden allmaehlich staerker und staerker bis zum (fp) - In the event of a water landing, your sat cushion may be used as a flotation device.



From Julian Stokes
Posted on April 1, 2011 at 7:12 PM

Immer noch zurueckhaltend... says it all really.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 1, 2011 at 9:17 PM

To give credit where credit is due, it seems this list was originally shared on April Fool's Day 2009 with the New Philharmonia Orchestra in Newton Mass.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on April 2, 2011 at 1:32 AM

still my fav:  Mit Parodie – Viola solo  ;)

I got a copy of this from playing Mahler a year or so ago.  They apply equally to Brahms ;)

From Laurie Niles
Posted on April 2, 2011 at 4:06 AM

 You will have so much fun!

From Tobias Seyb
Posted on April 2, 2011 at 6:58 AM


For a german speaking person it's still more funny if the difference between "a" an "ä" res. "ae" is ignored like here:

Dampfer auf - steamboat up

Mit Dampfer - with steamboat

Here the translation "slowly" is adequate :-)


From Terez Mertes
Posted on April 2, 2011 at 2:02 PM

 Funny, funny! 

From Tom Holzman
Posted on April 2, 2011 at 6:15 PM

Wonderful!  I am not a fan of Mahler's, but I do know that if you play it without feeling and projecting excruciating inner torment with every beat, it ain't authentic.

From Richard Watson
Posted on April 2, 2011 at 6:20 PM

 A wonderful Hoffnungesque parody. Decades ago, as a teenager, I adored Mahler (In my geezerdom, I only listen to chamber music.) studying the scores with missionary zeal. Whatever you might think of his music, one thing does stand out from his annotations in his own, as well as other composers' scores: He must have been an absolutely brilliant conductor, keenly attuned to the most subtile nuances of pace, balance and structure. I would have loved to have played under him.

From Corwin Slack
Posted on April 2, 2011 at 10:31 PM

 You mean that there is no marking that says "gaze at your navel"?

From Tobias Seyb
Posted on April 3, 2011 at 7:17 AM

There's a caricature from 1907 with Mahler staring at a pile of hammers, cowbells, ratchets etc., saying

"Damn! I forgot the hooter. Now I'll have to write another symphony!"

From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 3, 2011 at 7:33 AM

These jokes, I've not yet scratched the surface of the full depth of their meaning.

From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on April 6, 2011 at 10:37 PM

Oh, Richard, I'm not sure you would have loved playing under him.  He's the one who, as a conductor, supposedly asked for 72 rehearsals to prepare an orchestra for a Wagner opera.  Can you imagine? Can you say OCD?  (Management did say no to this request.)  The only thing longer than some of these German compound words is a Mahler symphony.  We played the fifth a month ago, and there's really about 45 minutes or so of terrific music there.

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