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About the program

From the biography of Alma Mahler we know how intensively Gustav Mahler worked in the summer of 1909. It was at this time that he finished his ninth symphony, to which, however, he did not give a number. He was afraid of the number nine: Beethoven composed nine symphonies before he died. The same applies to Dvořák and Bruckner. Mahler’s intention was to trick fate when he gave the title ’a symphony for tenor and alto (or baritone)’ to his piece “Song of the Earth”, which he composed after the Eighth Symphony.

Anyway, Mahler did not manage to cheat fate in his short life, the ninth was his last complete symphony and he could only make drafts of the tenth. In April 1910 he informed Bruno Walter, one of the most authentic interpreters of his works, about the new symphony. “The composition itself (…) is a very pleasant enrichment of my little family. I express something that I have been meaning to say for a long time, it might perhaps (when completed) be paired with my fourth symphony. (But it is completely different.)”

Though in terms of character the fourth and the ninth symphony are very much different from one another, after the experimental approach he took in-between the two, Mahler returns to the classical four-movement form in the last symphony. The premiere conducted by his loyal friend Bruno Walter took place in June 1912, after Mahler’s death.


Gustav Mahler: Symphony no.9


Iván Fischer