In terms of compositional development, there are two Gustav Mahlers – Mahler the symphonist, and Mahler the composer of Lieder [German plural = Songs , singular Das Lied . The term Lieder refers specifically to the Art song, rather than to popular song. ] . Despite the frequent use of, or quotation from, his own songs in the symphonies, they and the Lieder developed relatively independently. In the song cycle Das Lied von der Erde , these developments came together to produce something quite new.
The work divides into two parts, both in duration and in philosophy. The first five songs occupy roughly half the total duration of the work, with the remainder being devoted to the sixth song, the great Abschied
– the Farewell. The same division applies to its philosophy; the first five songs are concerned with the fears and mental conflicts that arise from contemplating the imminent approach of one's own death . The sixth song considers the final inner contentment that comes with the resolution of these fears and conflicts.
Part One exhibits a structure familiar from other Mahler symphonic works such as the Second Symphony
– Continued page 15/32