«Veni Creator Spiritus»Der Heilig-Geist-Hymnus in Gustav Mahlers Achter Sinfonie

Abstract / DOI

«Veni Creator Spiritus»: A hymn to the Holy Spirit in Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphonie. In the first part of his epic Eighth Symphony, Gustav Mahler sets the Latin hymn «Veni Creator Spiritus» to music. Mahler’s symphonic recourse to the Pentecost hymn makes his acclaimed «Symphony of a Thousand» at the same time one of his most controversial compositions. Reproaches include the usurpation of religious content (Hans Mayer) and the confusion of art and religion (Theodor W. Adorno). Against this background, the article undertakes a critical appraisal of Mahler’s musical approach to the hymn. First, the spiritual horizon and the genesis of the symphony are reflected. Then the question is discussed to what extent the final scene from Goethe’s Faust II, which dominates the second part of the symphony, can be seen as a hermetic key to Mahler’s understanding of the Pentecost hymn. Mahler’s interpretation of the «Veni creator spiritus» is presented on the basis of exemplary musical passages. References to Olivier Messiaen are made. Finally, Mahler’s setting of the Pentecostal hymn is appreciated as a dogmatically not entirely consistent, but very personal testimony of the composer’s faith.

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