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





Instrumental Works


Vocal Works


Unfinished Works


Lost and Spurious Works






Mahler's Publishers


Supplementary Essays




Using the Catalogue


Conventions & Abbreviations




Index of Works


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In the relevant footnote (15, p. 949) de La Grange explains: 'Copies of all her letters to Mahler had been placed in an envelope that I found in one of the original volumes of the "Mahleriana".



Nordic Symphony




Nordische Symphonie

Paul Stefan (PSGM1, 14; PSGM2 29) refers to the work as a symphony, Guido Adler as a symphony (GA, 98) and as a symphony (or suite) (GA, 75), but Richard Specht (RSpBD, 46) describes it simply as „nordische‟ Suite.


  [c. 1879]








Lost (destroyed, according to Guido Adler)

Printed Editions






Mahler's earliest biographers disagree about the date of this unfinished work: Stefan and Specht place it in the period 1875–8, but Adler lists it as one of various orchestral works begun in 1882. However a passage in a letter from Mahler to his friend Anton Krisper dating from late November 1879 probably refers to the initial inspiration for the work (PKMiL, 101; translation from HLG1, 718):

Auch ein neuer Schatten schwebt nun im Hintergrunde meiner Traumbilder, doch ich muß erst seiner Träger abwarten. Wenn sich der zeigt, so will ich Dir dann mehr von ihm sagen - ich muthmaße nur, daß das so ein uralter nordische König ist, der mich mit seinen Helden und Trinkgelagen aus meiner Ruhe scheuchen will.

Also, there is a new shadow looming in the background of my visions, but I must first wait for its representative. When he appears I will tell you more about him. I can only surmise that he is a very ancient Nordic king who will rouse me from my resting place with his heroes and carousing.

Given the date of this letter, one wonders whether the choice of subject matter was, if only in part, a delayed response to the considerable success of Heinrich Hofmann's "Frithjof" Symphonie. First performed in Berlin on 24 October 1874, its publisher claimed 80 performances in the first year alone, and the Viennese première, on 23 January 1876 was well received.

Although it is not mentioned in either of the published selections from her manuscript Mahleriana, Natalie Bauer-Lechner clearly knew about this particular work (HLG1, 718):

It appears from one of Natalie's [unpublished] letters to Mahler in the summer of 1897 [27 July 1897] that Mahler took up and abandoned this work several times and finally 'lost contact' (ganze Partien abhanden gekommen sind) with it.¹

It may also be one of the two early symphonies she refers to elsewhere (NBL2, 55; NBLE, 57–8 (revised here)):

Ein Klavierquintett und zwei Symphonien sowie ein Vorspiel zun den „Argonauten‟, das er früher gemacht, und eine preisgekrönte Violinsonate hat er nie ganz zu Papier gebracht. „Das war mir damals zu umständlich und mein Geist hatte sich noch zu wenig beruhigt und gesetzt. Ich schritt von Entwurf zu Entwurf und führte das meiste nur im Kopf aus; da wußte ich aber jede Note, daß ich es allezeit vorspielen konnte – bis ich es eines schönen Tages vergessen hatte.‟....

A piano quintet, two symphonies, a prelude to Die Argonauten, composed earlier, and a prize-winning violin sonata were never fully written out. 'In those days I couldn't be bothered with all that – my mind was too restless and unstable. I skipped from one draft to another, and finished most of them merely in my head. But I knew every note of them, and could play them whenever they were wanted – until, one day, I found I had forgotten them all.

Drei Sätze existieren von einer A-moll Symphonie, die vierte war ganz fertig, doch eben nur in meinem Kopf, das heißt auf dem Klavier, an dem ich damals noch alles komponierte (was man nicht tun soll und ich späterhin auch nicht tat).

'Three movements of an A minor symphony still exist; the fourth was finished, but only in my head, that is, on the piano. In those days, I still composed at the piano; one should not do this, and later I gave it up.'

Another, and presumably independent, associate of the composer, who knew that there had been more than one early Symphony was Alfredo Casella, who refers to four such compositions the scores of which Mahler destroyed: 'l'auteur a déchiré les partitions de quatre symphonies juvéniles' (ACGM, 239).


See also: Symphony (1876–8); Symphony in A minor (1880–).

Select Bibliography

  PSGM1, 14; PSGM2 29; RSpBD, 46; GA, 98; HLG1, 718; HLG1F, 930; HLG1a, 112, 118.
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