In the early summers of 1895 and 1896 Gustav Mahler left behind his obligations as an operatic conductor and traveled from Hamburg through Vienna to the countryside, where he composed his Third Symphony. By situating Mahler's Third Symphony in the context of his summer travels, this article proposes that the symphony's construction of natural spaces is thoroughly bound up with that of urban spaces, especially Vienna. Heeding Mahler's suggestion that the programs for his symphonies be used as “signposts and milestones” on the listener's journey, my hermeneutic method explores the resonances between the symphony, its programs, the preexisting material it references, and Mahler's personal experience of Vienna and the Austrian countryside. The use of marches and the programmatic reference to a mob in the first movement to depict the arrival of summer resonates with the political crisis surrounding Karl Lueger's struggle to be confirmed as mayor of Vienna. Similarly, the portrayal of birds as musical entertainers in “Ablösung im Sommer,” the song on which the third movement is based, paired with a posthorn signaling the arrival of mail echoes Mahler's frustration with the business of opera and his desire to be called to a new position in Vienna.

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