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About This Performance

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This symphony’s nickname, “Tragic” (never endorsed by Mahler), is closely linked to the huge hammer blows called for in the last movement. Mahler wanted the sound to be “brief and mighty, but dull in resonance and with a non-metallic character (like the fall of an axe).” The problem of achieving sufficient volume while remaining dull in resonance has proved a challenge to this day. Various approaches have included a wooden mallet hitting a wooden surface, a sledgehammer striking a wooden box, a particularly large bass drum, and even sometimes more than one method at once.

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