Initially, the first movement was called “Die Welt als ewige Jetztzeit” and is so a pendant to the finale. The initial title of the second movement, “Freund Hein spielt auf”, is missing in the partition. It is replaced by the expression mark “Sehr zufahrend, wie eine Fiedel” – according to Mahler’s own statement, the Death plays here. To give the macabre dance the appropriate horrible effect, the solo violin is tuned up.
The Fourth Symphony is often considered to be an cheerful or humorous work – Mahler had entitled his first drafts ‘humoresque’ at first. He said: “There is the cheerfulness of a higher, strange world inside, which is for us horrible”, and: “There is a lot of laughing in my Fourth – at the beginning of the second movement.”