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Um Mitternacht

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Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler


Versions of this work exist in G minor, A minor, and B minor, each with slightly different instrumentation and meter layout.


General Info

Year: 1901
Duration: c. 5:10
Difficulty: V-VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Kalmus
Cost: Score and Parts - $55.00   |   Score Only - $8.00


Instrumentation

Full Score
Flute I-II
Oboe d'Amour
Bassoon I-II
Contrabassoon
A Clarinet I-II
Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Tuba
Harp
Piano
Timpani

“Medium” voice


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

Um Mitternacht (After Midnight) represents the finest of Mahler’s lieder, and a musically sophisticated audience appreciates his harmonic innovations in this setting. Skilled players are required due to sustained sonorities that expand traditional tonal expectations. Unique effects further distinguish this piece from others in the genre. For example, Mahler instructs the clarinets and oboes with the term herunterzeihen, meaning to pull down pitches by almost two octaves. A vocalist with an expressive, rich lower register would enhance the emotional underpinnings of this Romantic treasure.

- Program Note from Great Music for Wind Band


One of five songs contained in Mahier’s Rückert Lieder, Um Mitternacht is the only song in the set scored for orchestral winds without strings. In fact, it is Mahler’s one and only contribution to the wind repertoire.

Um Mitternacht (At Midnight) recounts the poet’s battle with darkness in both its literal and figurative sense. Three central instrumental motives are introduced in the opening bars and form the foundation for much of the song: a three-note dotted figure in the clarinets; a rising and falling dotted figure in the flute; and an even descending scale in the horns, mirrored by an ascending scale in the voice. Each of the first four stanzas weave these motives in different contexts and modalities, representing the poet’s psychological fear of God, darkness and the earthly realm. The poet’s initial awareness of God is followed by the pursuit to understand the heavenly unknown. The poet then recognizes his or her own humanistic limitations and struggles to fight inherent “afflictions.” This leads to a very different orchestration of the final section: the transcendent moment where the proportion, harmony and grandiosity build into extravagant fruition.

Um Mitternacht is often performed as the last song of the set, due to the triumphant nature of the ending. A translation of Ruckert’s poetry follows:

At midnight, I was roused and looked up to the heavens; No star in the entire sky smiled down upon me at midnight.
At midnight, I cast my thoughts out beyond the dark limits. No vision of light brought me solace at midnight.
At midnight, I was rapt to the beats of my heart; One single pulse of pain welled up at midnight.
At midnight, I fought the battle, of your passion, oh humankind; I could not resolve it with my strength at midnight.
At midnight, I commended my strength into your hands! Lord, over death and life you keep watch at midnight!

- Program Note by Brooke Emery and University of North Texas Wind Ensemble concert program, 23 February 2021


Media


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


Performances

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Works for Winds by This Composer


Resources