Gustav Mahler's Seventh Symphony stands out as one of the most provocative symphonic statements of the early twentieth century. Throughout its performance history, it has often been heard as "existing in the shadow" of the Sixth Symphony or as "too reminiscent" of Richard Wagner's opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
Anna Stoll Knecht's Mahler's Seventh Symphony offers a new interpretation of the Seventh based on a detailed study of Mahler's compositional materials and a close reading of the finished work. With a focus on sketches previously considered as "discarded," Stoll Knecht exposes unexpected connections between the Seventh and both the Sixth and Meistersinger, confirming that Mahler's compositional project was firmly grounded in a dialogue with works from the past. This referential aspect acts as an important interpretive key to the work, enabling the first thorough analysis of the sketches and drafts for the Seventh, and shedding light on its complex compositional history.
Considering each movement of the symphony through a double perspective, genetic and analytic, Stoll Knecht demonstrates how sketch studies and analytical approaches can interact with each other. Mahler's Seventh Symphony exposes new facets of Mahler's musical humor and leads us to rethink much-debated issues concerning the composer's cultural identity, revealing the Seventh's pivotal role within his output.