Following the earlier volumes in the Studies in Musical Genesis and Structure series, Mahler's Fourth Symphony is a study of the origins of the work as well as a thorough examination of Mahler's compositional process. The source of the Fourth Symphony was the song 'Das himmlische Leben', which Mahler completed in 1892 and later wished to include in a large-scale work. Originally part of a collection of settings from 'Des Knaben Wunderhorn', the song became, for a time, part of the Third Symphony (1896). Eventually Mahler made 'Das himmlische Leben' the source and goal of the Fourth Symphony, which he completed in 1901. In this book, James Zychowicz explores how Mahler's compositional process for the Fourth, from the early movement plans to preliminary sketches, short score, draft score, and fair copy. At each stage of the process, Mahler added details, decided on textures, and explored tonalities until he arrived at the finished score. This is the first comprehensive study of Mahler's compositional method, concerning a pivotal work in his oeuvre.
The Fourth Symphony looks back toward the earlier Wunderhorn period and simultaneously forward to the less programmatic style of his middle symphonies.