Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 December 2020
Program music, a category that applies explicitly to Mahler’s early symphonies and implicitly to all of them, had a long and complicated history by the time he made his first attempts. Purely instrumental works by Froberger, Frescobaldi, Kuhnau (Biblische Historien), Bach (Capriccio sopra la lontananza del suo fratello dilettissimo) and François Couperin (Le Parnasse ou l’Apothéose de Lully); Parisian symphonies ca. 1800 by composers such as François Lesueur, Francesco Antonio Rosetti, and Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf; and “characteristic” music of early nineteenth-century Austria and Germany formed the backdrop of better-known efforts by Berlioz, Liszt, and Richard Strauss, all of which played in Mahler’s mind when he began to forge his own path. The survey and typology provided by this chapter serve to frame Mahler’s conflicted attitude, which led him ultimately to a public repudiation of programmaticism, but not a private one.