Cassidy Faddis



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Cassidy Faddis, MUS 303: Music History 2
Faculty Mentor: Professor Carolyn Guzski, Music

Gustav Mahler’s (1860-1911) famously unfinished Symphony No. 10 (1910) begins with an Adagio, which is unique. But it is also intentional, deliberately creating a meaningful association with his Symphony no. 9, which concludes with an Adagio movement. The Tenth Symphony includes an opening Andante-adagio, followed by a Scherzo, "Purgatorio," a second Scherzo, and concluding Finale. I analyze the soaring viola solo that opens the Tenth Symphony’s Adagio with a strongly yearning mood that comes full circle in the concluding Finale. The main theme and its contrapuntal echoes in the Adagio are led by this reflective viola solo, which is transformed in various guises throughout the movement, a technique also seen in the finale of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9 and in Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. Mahler builds his ideas to a cataclysmic climax, defined by a harmonically dense nine-note chord whose suddenness shatters the strength of the previous music that now fades into silence. Throughout my project, I explore the harmonic line that Mahler teeters between–tonality and atonality–as he opens a door towards twentieth-century Modernism, where his protégé Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) had already created a pathway. I use primary source letters, as well as historical and biographical studies, to show how Gustav Mahler’s use of compositional techniques (such as symphonic orchestration) conveyed an aural idea of tonal ambiguity that mirrors aspects of his life and imminent death during the creation of the Tenth Symphony.

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Arts and Humanities

Mahler and the Fine Line of Tonality
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