In Um Mitternacht
Mahler explicitly evoked the moment of his collapse the previous February, when in the middle of the night he had faced the threat of death—‘I wondered whether it would not be better to have done with it at once, since everyone must come to that in the end’. It is interesting that each of these four Rückert settings depicts a single state of mind, the mood of a moment with no development. And even though Um Mitternacht
ends on a note of triumph, suggesting the overcoming of a titanic inner conflict, for most of the song time seems to stand still, an effect that is created and enhanced in the poem by the constant repetition of ‘Um Mitternacht’ and its attendant -acht rhymes, and in the music by the sense of a constantly tolling bell and the unchanging key centre of A minor.
from notes by Roger Vignoles © 2004