November 6, 2022

Mahler's First Symphony and the "Blumine" Movement

Gustav Mahler spent several years revising his Symphony No. 1 in D major, providing audiences with at least four versions.

The first version, titled “Symphonic Poem in Two Parts,” was performed in Budapest in 1889. Part One (movements 1-3) explored the innocence of youth and included a second movement that today is known as the “Blumine” movement (flower piece). Part Two (movements 4-5) contained a funeral march followed by a movement describing an epic battle against Fate.

The second version, titled “Tone Poem in Symphonic Form,” was performed in Hamburg in 1893. Although Mahler provided program notes for the second version, he became increasingly frustrated by the gross misunderstanding of his description of what he had composed. 

The third version, titled “Titan” was performed in Weimar in 1894. Mahler titled it “Titan” due to its portrayal of a mighty struggle between Fate and the symphony’s hero. Audiences, however, thought the symphony was based on a popular novel  by the German writer Jean Paul, which was also titled Titan. Audiences wanted to know how characters and plot developments in Jean Paul’s book corresponded to specific sections of the symphony. The symphony had nothing to do with the novel, and Mahler regretted the title.

For the fourth and final version, Mahler dropped the name “Titan,” eliminated the “Blumine” movement, which had received much criticism, and simply titled the work “Symphony in D major.” He also refused to provide a program, leaving audiences on their own to discover the meaning of the symphony.

The “Blumine” movement was lost until was it was rediscovered by biographer Donald Mitchell in 1966. A year later, Benjamin Britten conducted a performance of “Blumine,” allowing an audience to hear it for the first time since 1894. The movement is now performed often as a stand-alone piece of music.

For an exploration of why Mahler might have eliminated “Blumine” from the symphony’s final version here's a link to the Gustav Mahler website at 

As for a recording of the movement itself, here's a video of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra performing it in 2011.


Mahler, "Blumine" ("Flower Piece") 
Performed by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra conducted by Daniel Harding