In 1884, Gustav Mahler received a commission from Kassel to write incidental music to seven tableaux vivants for 'Der Trompeter von Säckingen', a play by Joseph Victor von Scheffel (1826-1886). Performed 1884 Concert Kassel 23-06-1884 - Der Trompeter von Sackingen (Premiere)

Later Mahler found his music too sentimental and was so dissatisfied with it that he asked an acquaintance to destroy the piano reduction. 

In early 1888, Mahler became the director of the Budapest Opera House. Here he completed a symphonic poem in two sections and five movements that received its première on 1889 Concert Budapest 20-11-1889 - Symphony No. 1 (Premiere).

He left Budapest in 1891 to become principal conductor at the Stadttheater of Hamburg. In 01-1893, with the prospect of a second performance, he revised the work, at first removing the andante movement only to reinstate it and attach a program to the entire symphony.

Blumine translates to 'floral', or 'flower', and some believe this movement was written for Johanna Richter (1858-1943), with whom Mahler was infatuated at the time. The style of this movement has much in common with Mahler's earlier works but also shows the techniques and distinct style of his later compositions.

It was in the course of this revision that the slow movement received the title Blumine. In this form, the entire symphony, now entitled (with a nod to Jean Paul (1763-1825)) 'Titan': a Tone-Poem in Symphonic Form, was premièred under Mahler’s baton on 1893 Concert Hamburg 27-10-1893 - Symphony No. 1, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (Premieres).

Mahler took the now obsolete German word 'Blumine' from the three-volume collection 'Herbst-Blumine, oder gesammelte Werkchen aus Zeitschriften' ('Autumnal Blossoms, or Collected Lesser Works from Periodicals') that Jean Paul (1763-1825) published between 1810 and 1820, intending it to refer to a collection of flowers.

Jean Paul, for his part, took the word from the linguist Christian Heinrich Wolke (1741-1825), who championed the cause of an exemplary High German, arguing that the names of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses should be given German equivalents and suggesting the Roman goddess Flora should be renamed 'Blumine'. Mahler himself never let it be known how he wanted the term to be understood.

It was performed in the same form the following year in Weimar on 1894 Concert Weimar 03-06-1894 - Symphony No. 1.

After the 1894 performance (where it was called Bluminenkapitel), the piece received harsh criticism, especially regarding the second movement.

By the fourth performance, given on 1896 Concert Berlin 16-03-1896 - Symphony No. 1, Todtenfeier, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Premiere), the Blumine movement and the name Titan had vanished from the now four-movement symphony. Mahler now called his work Symphony in D major for large orchestra. It was published in this four-movement form in 1899. 


As the only surviving score perished when the Royal Theater was bombed in 1944, the music was long thought to be lost. By a circuitous route, a copyist’s manuscript of the 1893 Hamburg version arrived in the United States, where it was unearthed by Donald Mitchell (1925-2017) in 1966 - a discovery that brought the work’s story full circle.

When Mitchell examined the autograph score at Yale in 1966, his eyes lit on a theme that had been handed down in the Mahler literature in the memoirs of the music critic Max Steinitzer (1864-1936). Steinitzer had described the first six bars of 'Der Trompeter von Säckingen', and Mitchell noticed the congruence between the surviving theme and the recently unearthed score.

As the Blumine autograph was written on paper of a smaller size than the rest of the manuscript of Symphony No. 1, he concluded that Mahler must have inserted the entire movement of the original entr’acte, Werners Trompetenlied, unchanged into the score of the symphony. Given the absence of the original score, there is no way to verify this claim. Nevertheless, it is quite certain that the serenade was transformed into Blumine with few if any changes. This also becomes clear when we compare the much smaller scoring of the movement with the forces demanded for the symphony.

The rediscovered piece was given its first twentieth-century hearing by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) at the Aldeburgh Festival on 18-06-1967.  This kindled a debate as to whether Mahler’s First should be performed with or without this movement – a debate that has persisted to the present day. As a compromise solution, Blumine is appended to the end of the symphony, as can often be heard on relatively recent complete recordings of Mahler’s symphonies.

The question remains why Mahler expunged the movement from his symphony in the first place. One practical reason might have been the length of the five-movement work. Mahler’s female confidante, the viola player Natalie Bauer-Lechner (1858-1921), saw the reason in the work’s key scheme, for the C-major of Blumine sounds alien between the tonic D major of the first movement and the dominant A major of the scherzo.

The conductor Bruno Walter (1876-1962) recalled that Mahler presented him with a piece of music that he considered 'insufficiently symphonic'. The actual reasons cannot be determined with any degree of certainty. All we can conclude is that Mahler had mixed feelings about Blumine. In 1884, he was satisfied with the trumpet serenade; in 1886, he found it too sentimental and wanted it destroyed; in 1888, he interpolated it into a symphony; and in 1893, he removed it again.

Blumine was rediscovered by Donald Mitchell in 1966, while doing research for his biography on Mahler in the Osborn Collection at Yale University, in a copy of the Hamburg version of the symphony. Apparently, Mahler had given it to a woman he tutored at the Vienna Conservatory. It was passed on to her son, who then sold it to James Osborn, who then donated it to Yale University.

Benjamin Britten gave the first rediscovered performance of the Hamburg version in 1967, after it had been lost for over seventy years. After this discovery, other people performed this movement, some even simply inserting the Blumine into the 1906 version. However, many people did not agree about playing this music as part of the symphony. Mahler had rejected it from his symphony, they reasoned, so it should not be played as part of it. Famous Mahler conductors such as Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), Georg Solti and Bernard Haitink (1929) never performed it. 


In its formal outline, Blumine can be derived from the three-part arch form (A-B-A’). The first theme is preceded by a four-bar introduction of tremolando strings, establishing backdrop against which the trumpet states the first theme. This theme is irregularly constructed from a four-bar antecedent and a five-bar consequent and ends with a half cadence.

For two bars, the harp and woodwind modulate back to C major, preparing the trumpet for its second entrance. It begins with the same head motif as in the first theme – a motif of central importance to the entire movement – but elaborates it in a different way. C major is reached in bar 20 via a secondary dominant in the form of a suspended second-inversion triad. The tension is resolved in the basses, chromatically veiled above a pedal point on G and prolonged to bar 28. It then resolves via the dominant to C major.

A twelve-bar transition leads to the B section, which opens in the relative minor (A minor) and proceeds to modulate to remote tonal areas. In the process, Mahler combines unusual pairs of instruments to create two-voice “bicinia.” For example, beginning in bar 71, the double basses play in duet with the oboe, after which the first violins provide a counterpoint to the horn melody, and beginning in bar 93 the cellos play in canon with the flute. At this point the movement reaches the distant key of G-flat major, a tritone removed from the tonic. Once again, a chromatically veiled second-inversion triad on G serves as a transition.

The recapitulation of the A section is abridged. It again opens with the trumpet melody, but the melody is not repeated as in the first section. It is restated a few times only to break off suddenly. The music vanishes in the high strings and ebbs away with three chords from the harp.

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