Contemporary criticism often likened Mahler's music to the performance of an actor. The final chapter draws out the tension between expression and irony, arguing that Mahler's music is characterized by a high degree of self‐consciousness about its own aesthetic statements. The music proposes an authentic expression but, at the same time, is self‐critical of music's ability to achieve this. To test Mahler's ambivalent play between expression and irony, this chapter examines the idea of an “Adagio voice,” as found in the Finale of the Ninth Symphony. This is discussed in terms of the aesthetic fiction, the “as if” of all art, but here raised to the level of historical self‐consciousness. Mahler's music thus marks a historical moment that binds together romantic irony, modernist expression, and postmodern deconstruction.
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