This sequence is based on the opening horn call from Gustav Mahler’s 3rd Symphony. This sequence is brought to you by my friend and horn boss, Josh Johnson. Josh is an experienced orchestral pro who plays 4th horn in Des Moines Symphony, 3rd horn in the Quad City Symphony, and does tons of subbing all over the midwest. In addition to his performing, Josh teaches horn and brass methods at Iowa State University, and his high school students always dominate the All-State band and orchestra auditions. Huge thanks to Josh for stepping up this week!
The first movement overshadows the entire symphony and is titled Part 1. The other 5 movements come together to be Part 2, highlighting how much emphasis Mahler puts on the first movement.
Mahler’s goal with this piece was to encompass Pan, which is the greek god of the wild but also a word that means ALL. I believe Mahler was trying to somehow capture the whole world in this piece.
The titles of the movements give us clues about what Mahler intended, and help get my imaginative juices flowing about the first movement.
- I – Pan awakens, and summer marches in
- II – what the flowers in the meadow tell me
- III – what the animals in the forest tell me
- IV – what man tells me
- V – what the angels tell me
- VI – what love tells me
This theme has a remarkable connection to the closing theme of Brahms’ First Symphony, as well as Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Kenneth Woods has done an entire blog post devoted to this connection. Check out his post for more information.
As concise as Brahms is in form, order, and treatment of the theme, Mahler rips it all apart in 10 bars, and introduces every bit of chaos Pan intended in the world. It’s almost as though Brahms’ theme is trapped on a mountain, being stalked by Beethoven, Mahler, and a pack of wolves. There is no excerpt as earthy and gigantic in scope as this one.
This excerpt is marked FF throughout, so pick your moments. I like to phrase through the half notes on beat one, and relax slightly into the eighth note that follows. Isolate the larger intervals to make sure they are in tune, and try slurring through the tune first to make this as lyrical as possible. Once your sound and intervals are right where you want them, add a weighted “DAH” accent. Strive to encompass the entire natural world in your sound. Good luck!
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