Mahler’s Ninth Symphony

Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Live-Recording: Munich, Philharmonie im Gasteig, performed by the
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Mariss Jansons conducting.

Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony is primarily regarded as the composer’s reaction to the diagnosis of a heart ailment, which he received just before writing the first sketches for the work. Mahler was deeply distraught and cannot have known how few years he still had left to live. His exploration of his own life experiences, and of the meaning of life, death, salvation, life after death and love, always took place in and through his music.

The Ninth Symphony was composed between 1909 and 1910 in Toblach, in a kind of creative frenzy, and was first performed in Vienna on June 26, 1912 by the Vienna Philharmonic, under the baton of Bruno Walter. Mahler had already died on May 18, 1911, and was no longer able to experience the premiere of his last completed work.

Willem Mengelberg, the first major conductor of the composer’s works, wrote in his score: “Mahler’s soul sings its farewell!”

Mahler’s Ninth Symphony represents the culmination of a development process. The progressive chromaticism and maximum utilization of the tonal are here taken to their limits – and, for the first time, beyond them. Indeed, the two movements that frame the work, in particular, depart from the tonal entirely, pointing clearly to the dawn of a new musical epoch. Alban Berg even called this symphony “the first work of New Music”.

Here is the Andanta Comodo from Mahler’s Symphony number 9:

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