Lorin Maazel is a musician of the highest order. He is what might be termed a "musician's musician." If he had been a conservatory student, he would have graduated at least third in his class. (Pardon the sarcastic reference.)
Boisterous timpani, joined in the fray by blazing brass, set the scene for the riotous fifth movement, presented above. Here is quasi-film music, pomp and pageantry and great dramatic gestures all rolled into a piece that demands intense orchestral display. Formally, the movement is a rondo that acts as the theme for a set of eight variations, capped off by a dramatic coda. There are parodies of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow, as well as of Mahler's own Fifth Symphony and the famous Lutheran Hymn "Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott", not to mention other ironic and sarcastic references. Little wonder that of all the Symphony's movements this has come in for the greatest amount of criticism and puzzlement.
Mahler conducted the premiere of his Seventh Symphony in Prague in 1908. A few weeks later he conducted it in Munich and the Netherlands. Both the audience and the performers at the premiere were confused by the work, and it was not well received. It remained for a while as one of Mahler's least appreciated works, often accused of incoherence.
More recently, scholars and conductors have experimented with a range of interpretations of the work, especially the tempo of the finale, and the work has thrilled more audiences worldwide and has since become more popular.