Curse of the ninth

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The curse of the ninth is a superstition connected with the history of classical music. It is the belief that a ninth symphony is destined to be a composer's last; that the composer will be fated to die while or after writing it, or before completing a tenth.


According to Arnold Schoenberg, this superstition began with Gustav Mahler, who, after writing his Eighth Symphony, wrote Das Lied von der Erde, which, while structurally a symphony, was able to be disguised as a song cycle, each movement being a setting of a poem for soloist and orchestra. Then he wrote his Ninth Symphony and thought he had beaten the curse, but died with his Tenth Symphony incomplete.[1]

After Mahler, some composers used as examples of the curse include: Kurt Atterberg, David Maslanka, Vincent Persichetti, Alfred Schnittke, Roger Sessions and Elie Siegmeister.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ethan Mordden, A Guide to Orchestral Music: The Handbook for Non-Musicians. New York: Oxford University Press (1980): 312. ISBN 9780198020301. "Though it is more a song-cycle than a symphony, this was to have been Mahler's Ninth Symphony—but superstition cautioned him. Beethoven and Schubert both died after completing their respective Ninths, and Bruckner died with his Ninth unfinished. ... He thought he saw a way out: give his Ninth Symphony a name—no number—thus leaping the verge unscathed. He could then go on to a "tenth" (really his Tenth). But fate laughed at Mahler, and he, like his predecessors, died before he could complete a Tenth Symphony."

Further reading[edit]

  • Cooke, Deryck. Gustav Mahler: An Introduction to His Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
  • Lebrecht, Norman. Mahler Remembered. New York: W.W. Norton, 1987.
  • Mahler-Werfel, Alma. The Diaries, translated by Antony Beaumont. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000.
  • Dan Stehman, Roy Harris: An American Musical Pioneer. Boston: Twayne Publishers (1984): 163 – 169