The MGM logo: a hand-drawn cartoon of Mahler at the podium, glaring at the audience

Main heading: The Music of Gustav Mahler: A Catalogue of Manuscript and Printed Sources [rule] Paul Banks





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For Hruby, see FSABC, II, 176. The same story, taken directly from Hruby, can be found in GAAB, IV/1, 451–2.



There are two other references to Mahler's overnight composition of works. Stefan (PSGM1, 14) mentions a prize-winning work that was composed 'literally overnight', but since he had access to the Bauer-Lechner's manuscript (see NBL, VII, NBLE, 19) the information probably derives from that source. The other concerns a Quartet movement (AMGM, 80; AMGME3, 63).



Sonata Movement (Andante)




Sonatensatz (Andante)












Printed Editions






The only primary source to refer to this work is an anecdote published in 1901 by a musician with few if any links with Mahler, the Bruckner pupil, Carl Hruby (1869–1940) (CHAB, 13):¹

Mahler studierte bei Professor Krenn Compositionslehre und hatte zur Jahresprüfung einen Symphoniesatz vollendet. Da kam einen Tag (!) vor der Prüfung „hoherenorts‟ (von der Direction) die Weisung, man wünsche von den Schülern keine Orchestercompositionen, sondern Sonatensätze vorgelegt zu sehen. Mahler setzte sich hin und schreib über Nacht (!) einen Sonatensatz (Andante), der – nach Professor Krenns eigenem Ausspruch – „würdig war, den Namen des größten Meisters an der Spitze zu tragen!‟ Diese interessante Reminiscenz aus der Jugendzeit Mahler's wurde uns von Bruckner – als von Professor Krenn selbst  – wiederholt erzählt.

Mahler studied composition with Professor Krenn and completed a symphonic movement for the annual examination. Then, one day (!) before the examination there came from 'above' (the administration) the instruction that it was desired that sonata movements rather than orchestral compositions should be submitted by the students. Mahler sat down and overnight (!) wrote a sonata movement (Andante) which, according to Professor Krenn's own opinion 'was worthy to bear at its head the name of the greatest master'. This interesting reminiscence about Mahler's youth was repeatedly recounted to us – as having come from Professor Krenn himself – by Bruckner.

The structure of this narrative – which ultimately stems from Mahler's composition teacher, Franz Krenn – is very similar to the anecdotes recorded by Natalie Bauer-Lechner (NBL2, 17; NBLE, 23) and Richard Specht (RSpGM2, 152–3): Mahler wishes to submit a symphonic composition for a Conservatoire examination/competition, is prevented from doing so, and overnight produces a replacement work that wins plaudits/a prize.² Only one sonata composed by Mahler in the mid-1870s is firmly documented, the Violin Sonata of 1876, and it might be tempting to link the 'sonata movement' with that work.

See also: Symphony (1876–8); Violin Sonata (1876); Piano Suite (1876–8); Movement for String Quintet (1876–8).

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  CHAB, 13; HLG1a, 84
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