“Blumine”: Mahler’s “Blunder of Youth”

Blumine (“Flower”) was the original Andante second movement of Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony. It was eliminated following the the third performance, conducted by Mahler in Weimar in 1894. With this revision, a sprawling and programmatic five-movement tone poem was refined into a symphony. Years later, Mahler dismissed Blumine as “a blunder of youth.” The manuscript resurfaced in 1959 and it was included in a June 18th, 1967 performance conducted by Benjamin Britten. Although some conductors have reinserted this music, most performances of the First Symphony omit Blumine. 

Blumine is a sunny trumpet serenade, “innocent and uncomplicated.” It is a youthful love song filled with the bucolic fragrances of nature. The opening bars shimmer with tremolo which may remind you of the opening of the second movement of Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastiquePerhaps coincidentally, the first six notes of the theme mirror the prominent melody from the finale of Brahms’ First Symphony. Yet the atmosphere of this naive and sentimental music is far removed from Brahms’ exalted chorale. There is a fleeting allusion to the “Bruckner crescendo” (4:17) which evaporates into the recapitulation. The serene, repeating trumpet melody anticipates the extended post horn solo of the third movement of Mahler’s Third Symphony. Open fifths in the horns blend with the pastoral sounds of the oboe.

Blumine was originally conceived as incidental music for a performance of Joseph Victor von Scheffel’s play, Der Trompeter von Säkkingen. It was composed in “two days” in June of 1884. In this youthful serenade, we hear the seeds of Mahler works to come.

Here is Eugene Ormandy’s 1969 recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra:

Recordings

Featured Image: summer flowers in an Alpine meadow

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

3 thoughts on ““Blumine”: Mahler’s “Blunder of Youth””

  1. I am a die-hard Mahlerian, but I agree with conductors who leave out the “Blumine” movement. It just doesn’t come up to the standard of music in the rest of the symphony. After that astonishingly complex first movement (I have to listen with the score to get the most out of it — thank you Dover Publications for keeping them available at such a low cost), “Blumine” sounds trivial, bordering on saccharine. Mahler shows time and again in his songs that he can convey artless beauty and simplicity, but “Blumine” isn’t an example of that.

    Sometimes the composer’s own assessment is the right one.

    And now I have to pull out the score and listen to the “Titan” again. Regards to everyone.

    Reply
  2. The change of dynamics and the usage of pauses was done in a very smart way. The arrangement of trumpets indeed added a bit of melancholy as well.

    Reply

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