Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mahler's Death Symphony

I was listening to Mahler's Ninth yesterday ; Kirill Kondrashin and Moscow Philharmonic. Good account on a Melodiya pressing.
I want to share my Mahler symphonic titles with you all:
No.1 - Titan; No.2 - Resurrection; No.3 - Purgatorio; No. 4 - Angelic; No.5 - Fate; No. 6- Tragic; No.7- Nachtmusik; No.8 - Magnificent Symphony of a Thousand; Das Lied Von Der Erde; No.9 - Death; No.10- Farewell.
Gustav Mahler wrote his ninth symphony in 1908 but kept revising it till 1910. This symphony is a renunciation of life. Mahler was suffering from an incurable heart disease and was aware of the fact. He still continued with great inspiration to work on the symphony and that involved a lot of self sacrifice as he did earlier all his life.
He started work on the Ninth soon after completing Das Lied Von Der Erde - a symphony for singer soloists and orchestra that has a chronological place between the Eighth and the Ninth. Mahler did not want to designate Das Lied von der Erde as 'No. 9' frequently thinking about the fateful significance of the title of the 'Ninth' Symphony' which proved to be the last for Beethoven, Schubert and Bruckner despite left over scores to move on. Dvorak also ended at nine but this is another story for in his lifetime he had only published five symphonies starting with No. 6 as No.1 and No.5 as No.2.For this reason, Das Lied von der Erde that was essentially Mahler's Ninth acquired a programmatic title and the one that subsequently followed it, while virtually being the tenth, was designated as the Ninth.
His tenth symhony notwithstanding, with finishing touches by Derryck Cooke , Mazzetti and Samale/Mazzucca, Mahler's Ninth became his symphonic swan song. I call it the 'Death' Symphony. He never saw it performed. The symphony was introduced after Mahler's death in 1912 with Bruno Walter conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker.