Curse of the ninth

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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 and that the composer will be fated to die while or after writing it, or before completing a tenth.

History[edit]

The curse of the ninth superstition originated in the late-Romantic period of classical music.[1] According to Arnold Schoenberg, the 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.[2] Then he wrote his Ninth Symphony and thought he had beaten the curse, but died with his Tenth Symphony incomplete.[1][3]

This superstition, however, was only hatched by Mahler. Before him, Beethoven and Schubert had died before or while writing their tenth symphonies.[1] Upon realizing this, Mahler created the curse of the ninth and led this superstition into popularity by seemingly proving it true. This superstition has, however, lost popularity, and while it is spoken about, proof of it has not happened recently as it did in the era of Beethoven and Mahler.[1] As Maddy Shaw Roberts writes, "The Curse of the Nine is a great story, and it probably fueled a lot of the angst behind Mahler’s heart-wrenching symphonies. But perhaps it’s best to treat it as a superstition."[1]

After Beethoven, Schubert and Mahler, some composers cited as examples of the curse include:[4][5]

In 2012, composer Philip Glass stated, "Everyone is afraid to do a ninth. It is a jinx that people think about".[11]

In popular culture[edit]

The curse of the ninth symphony was addressed in the sixth episode of the 19th season of the British crime series Midsomer Murders in 2018.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Roberts, Maddy (January 30, 2019). "What is the Curse of the Ninth - and does it really exist". Classic Fm. Archived from the original on 2019-06-07. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
  2. ^ "The Curse of the Ninth Haunted These Composers | WQXR Editorial". WQXR. Retrieved 2022-01-16.
  3. ^ 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."
  4. ^ Roberts, Maddy Shaw. "What is the Curse of the Ninth – and does it really exist?". Classic FM. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  5. ^ James, Bennett II. "The Curse of the Ninth Haunted These Composers". The WQXR Newsletter. New York Public Radio. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  6. ^ "Arnold Complete Symphonies". Gramophone. Mark Allen Group. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  7. ^ "Kurt Atterberg". Classical Net. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  8. ^ Maslanka, Matthew. "Symphony No. 10: The River of Time". David Maslanka. Maslanka Press. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  9. ^ "Recordings of Vincent Persichetti". Naxos. Naxos Digital Services Ltd. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  10. ^ "Principal Works". The Roger Sessions Society. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  11. ^ Guardian Staff (2012-02-05). "Pass notes No 3,119: Curse of the ninth symphony". the Guardian. Retrieved 2022-01-16.
  12. ^ Street, Joan. "The Curse Of The Ninth: Series 19, Episode 6". Midsomer Murders. Retrieved 2022-01-14.

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