Das Klagende Lied (Song of Lamentation) is a cantata by Gustav Mahler, composed between 1878 and 1880 and greatly revised over the next two decades. In its original form, Das klagende Lied is one of the earliest of his works to have survived (the Piano Quartet movement in A minor is believed to date from 1876).
Mahler began to write the text of Das Klagende Lied (possibly basing it on the fairy tale of the same name by Ludwig Bechstein and/or Der singende Knochen (The Singing Bones) by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm) during the early part of his final year in the Vienna Conservatory, where he was a student between 1875 and 1878. The draft text for the work is dated 18 March 1878, and composition of the music began in the Autumn of 1879 and was completed on 1 November 1880. The work is laid out on a very large and complex scale, requiring a large orchestra and taking 60-70 minutes to perform in full.
As originally composed, Das Klagende Lied was in three parts:
- Lied 1: Waldmarchen (Forest Legend)
- Lied 2: Der Spielmann (The Minstrel)
- Lied 3: Hochzeitsstuck (Wedding Piece)
Mahler's attachment to the Wunderhorn collection dated back to his childhood, and in his first major finished work, Das Klagende Lied, written in 1880, he chose to conjure up the same imaginative world. The text is his own, drawn from a story by Ludwig Bechstein, itself based on the tale Der singende Knochen (The Singing Bone) by the brothers Grimm, and Mahler may also have seen a dramatised version of the story given at the Vienna Conservatory in 1876. Significantly, what Mahler wrote was not an evocative symphonic poem or fairytale opera, but a cantata in three sections.
Das Klagende Lied, Lied 2: Der Spielmann (The Minstrel), Handwritten score (First version), 31 pages, 58 written pages. 33 x 26 cm, signed (MHc 4077) (May 1880).