No 1: Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht
No 2: Ging heut' morgen über's Feld
No 3: Ich hab' ein glühend Messer
No 4: Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz
In the first song, Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht, the rustic setting is immediately audible in the asymmetrical piping of the wedding dance and in the calling of the birds, clearly differentiated from the sustained sonorities of the lover’s lament, which begins by withdrawing into itself, but then cannot help opening up again in widely arching phrases expressive of his grief. In Ging heut morgen übers Feld—which Mahler reused substantially in the First Symphony—he shakes off the gloom, under the influence of a bright summer morning. In the piano part all is burgeoning nature and bright fanfares of birdsong; only at the end does the contrast with his own lost happiness become too much for him.
Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer is the storm at the heart of the cycle, its emotional turmoil expressed in an exceptional vocal range from low D to high G and searing chromatics over stark open fifths in the bass. In the quiet central section ‘Wenn ich in dem Himmel seh’’, devotees of Schubert would not need Mahler’s own orchestration to recognize the two horns that represent the vision of two blue eyes. But the sepulchral E flat minor of the postlude, with its scurrying triplets, is pure Mahler. The final song, Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz, begins as a funeral march, but ends as a vision of emotional sublimation and release, the E minor of the opening yielding to an almost seraphic F major melody whose triadic contours are designed to release all the possible harmonic overtones of the accompanying pedal-point in the piano. By the end the funeral march has become a distant echo, suggesting a comparable emotional distancing of the singer from his grief.
from notes by Roger Vignoles © 2004