Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 December 2020
Notwithstanding their remarkable peculiarities and profoundly individual nature, Mahler’s symphonies were part of a tradition begun by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven; extended by Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Berlioz; and renewed during his lifetime by composers including Bruckner, Brahms, Bruch, Borodin, Tchaikovsky, Dvořák, Franck, Saint-Saëns, Elgar, Strauss, Sibelius, Nielsen, and Glazunov. This context is surveyed here in two periods: composers who flourished during Mahler’s youth roughly (1870–89) and those active from 1889 until the outbreak of World War I. The former period reveals that even within this relatively conservative choice of genre (vis-à-vis the symphonic poem) a remarkable of approach obtained, from the motivic integration of Brahms and the fragmented grandeur of Bruckner to the lyricism and user-friendly national influences of Dvořák and Tchaikovsky. In the later group, a trend toward amalgamation of programmatic and traditionally symphonic impulses becomes more pronounced, such as one finds in Mahler’s own works.