Symphony No. 9 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 9 by Gustav Mahler was written between 1908 and 1909, and was the last symphony that he completed. It is actually his tenth symphonic work, as Mahler gave no ordinal number (nor the title 'symphony') to his symphonic song-cycle Das Lied von der Erde. Though the work is often described as being in the key of D major, the tonal scheme of the symphony as a whole is progressive. While the opening movement is in D major, the finale is in D-flat major.
A typical performance takes about 75–90 minutes.
- 1 Instrumentation
- 2 Movements
- 3 Premieres
- 4 Arrangement for chamber ensemble
- 5 Views on and quotes about the Symphony
- 6 Recordings (in chronological order)
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The symphony is scored for the following orchestra:
- Woodwinds: piccolo, 4 flutes, 4 oboes (ob. 4 doubling cor anglais), E-flat clarinet, 3 clarinets in B-flat and A, bass clarinet, 4 bassoons (bsn. 4 doubling contrabassoon)
The symphony is in four movements:
- Andante comodo (D major)
- Im Tempo eines gemächlichen Ländlers. Etwas täppisch und sehr derb (C major)
- Rondo-Burleske: Allegro assai. Sehr trotzig (A minor)
- Adagio. Sehr langsam und noch zurückhaltend (D-flat major)
Although the symphony has the traditional number of movements, it is unusual in that the first and last are slow rather than fast. As is often the case with Mahler, one of the middle movements is a ländler.
I. Andante comodo
The first movement embraces a loose sonata form. The key areas provide a continuation of the tonal juxtaposition displayed in earlier works (notably the Sixth and Seventh symphonies). The work opens with a hesitant, syncopated rhythmic motif (which Leonard Bernstein suggested is a depiction of Mahler's irregular heartbeat), which is heard throughout the movement.
The brief introduction also presents two other ideas: a three-note motif announced by the harp that provides much of the musical basis for the rest of the movement,
and a muted horn fanfare that is also heard later.
In the development, it is heard in the horns and clarinets in Beethoven's original form, with a third descending into a fifth. At the height of the development, the trombones and tuba announce the rhythmic "heartbeat" motif, marked within the score "Mit höchster Gewalt" (with greatest force). This has been interpreted as a sudden intrusion of "death in the midst of life," and it leads into a solemn funeral march, marked "Wie ein Kondukt" (like a procession), on a timpani ostinato of the harp's three-note motif. Low bells are heard here for the first and only time in the symphony, accompanying the timpani in the three-note motif. Near the end of the movement is a remarkable example of Mahler's linear polyphony, in which piccolo, flute, oboe, and solo violin imitate bird-calls. Alban Berg asserted that this section was a "vision of the hereafter."
English conductor Sir Roger Norrington pointed out in his interview with fellow conductor Charles Hazlewood that was broadcast on BBC on 25 July 2011 prior to his performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, that Mahler quoted five times Johann Strauss Jr.'s waltz for the opening ball of Musikverein in Vienna, titled "Freut euch des Lebens" (1870), or "Enjoy Life". Mahler studied at Musikverein five years after it was built, and Norrington asserted that Mahler associated the waltz with his youth.
II. Im Tempo eines gemächlichen Ländlers. Etwas täppisch und sehr derb
The second movement is a series of dances, and opens with a rustic Ländler, which becomes distorted to the point that it no longer resembles a dance. The movement contains shades of the second movement of Mahler's Fourth Symphony, in the distortion of a traditional dance into a bitter and sarcastic one. Traditional chord sequences are altered into near-unrecognizable variations, turning the rustic yet gradually decaying C major introductory Ländler into a vicious whole-tone waltz, saturated with chromaticism and frenetic rhythms. Strewn amidst these sarcastic dances is a slower and calmer Ländler which reintroduces the "sighing" motif from the first movement.
The movement ends with a cheeky pianissimo nod from the piccolo and contrabassoon.
III. Rondo-Burleske: Allegro assai. Sehr trotzig
The third movement, in the form of a rondo, displays the final maturation of Mahler's contrapuntal skills. It opens with a dissonant theme in the trumpet which is treated in the form of a double fugue.
The following five-note motif introduced by strings in unison recalls the second movement of his Fifth Symphony.
There are two similar fugues in the movement, of which the final is unique in that it presents the subject in subsequent fifths instead of the fifth and the octave as most fugues do. The violent contrapuntal music is leads twice by a sarcastic parody of Viennese popular music at the time, such as that of Franz Lehár. The texture is interrupted about halfway through by a slower serene section, with a theme based on material from earlier in the movement but with a completely different character. The theme is based on a cantus-firmus-like idea, and features a turn which Mahler later uses in the Adagio finale to great expressive effect.
This surreal image is rudely interrupted by a crass statement of the theme in the clarinets. This leads into a reprise of the opening music, and an accelerando to the end.
The addition of Burleske (a parody with imitations) to the title of the movement refers to the mixture of dissonance with Baroque counterpoint. Although the term "Burlesque" means "humorous", the actual "humor" of the movement is relatively small compared to the overall field of manic violence. The autograph score is marked "to my brothers in Apollo" and the movement may be intended as a sarcastic response to the critics of his music at the time.[original research?]
IV. Adagio. Sehr langsam und noch zurückhaltend
The final movement, marked zurückhaltend ("very slowly and held back"; literally, "reservedly"), opens with only strings. Commentators have noted the similarity of the opening theme in particular to the hymn tune Eventide (familiarly sung as Abide with Me).
But most importantly it incorporates a direct quote from the Rondo-Burleske's middle section. Here it becomes an elegy. After several impassioned climaxes the movement becomes increasingly fragmented and the coda ends quietly. On the closing pages, Mahler quotes the first violins from his own Kindertotenlieder: The day is fine on yonder heights[original research?].
The last note is marked ersterbend ("dying away"). The last two pages last for six minutes, an unprecedented amount of time for so few notes. Leonard Bernstein speculated at the end of his 5th Norton lecture that the entire movement is symbolically prophesying three kinds of death: Mahler's own impending death, the death of tonality, and the death of "Faustian" culture in all the arts.
Mahler died in May 1911, without ever hearing his Ninth Symphony performed. The work's ending is usually interpreted as his conscious farewell to the world, as it was composed following the death of his beloved daughter Maria Anna in 1907 and the diagnosis of his fatal heart disease. However, this notion is disputed inasmuch as Mahler felt that he was in good health at the time of the composition of the 9th Symphony; he had had a very successful season (1909–10) as the conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and, before that, the Metropolitan Opera (New York). In his last letters, Mahler indicated that he was looking forward to an extensive tour with the orchestra for the 1910–11 season. Moreover, Mahler worked on his unfinished Tenth Symphony until his death from endocarditis in May 1911.
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- Dutch premiere: 2 May 1918, Amsterdam, with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Willem Mengelberg
- UK premiere: 27 February 1930, Manchester with The Hallé conducted by Hamilton Harty
- American premiere: 16 October 1931, Boston, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Serge Koussevitzky
- Japanese premiere: 16 April 1967, Tokyo, with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kirill Kondrashin
Arrangement for chamber ensemble
In 2012, ensemble mini commissioned composer/arranger Klaus Simon to transcribe the symphony for a chamber ensemble of 16 musicians, the premiere of which was performed at Berliner Philharmonie on 28 March 2012 with conductor, Joolz Gale. It is also published by Universal Edition.
Views on and quotes about the Symphony
Many Mahler interpreters have been moved to speak with similar profundity about the work:
- It is terrifying, and paralyzing, as the strands of sound disintegrate ... in ceasing, we lose it all. But in letting go, we have gained everything. – Leonard Bernstein
- I believe it to be not only his last but also his greatest achievement. – Otto Klemperer
- [Mahler's] Ninth is most strange. In it, the author hardly speaks as an individual any longer. It almost seems as though this work must have a concealed author who used Mahler merely as his spokesman, as his mouthpiece. This symphony is no longer couched in the personal tone. It consists, so to speak, of objective, almost passionless [fast leidenschaftslose] statements of a beauty which becomes perceptible only to one who can dispense with animal warmth [animalische Wärme] and feels at home in spiritual coolness [geistiger Kühle]. – Arnold Schoenberg
Less favourable views include:
- Someday, some real friends of Mahler's will ... take a pruning knife and reduce his works to the length that they would have been if the composer had not stretched them out of shape; and then the great Mahler war will be over ... The Ninth Symphony would last about twenty minutes. – Deems Taylor
Recordings (in chronological order)
The Ninth Symphony has been recorded over a hundred times for commercial release on 78-rpm discs, LP, CD, or DVD. An incomplete list includes:
- Bruno Walter with the Vienna Philharmonic, 1938
- Hermann Scherchen with the Vienna Symphony, 1950
- Jascha Horenstein with the Vienna Symphony, 1952
- Paul Kletzki with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, 1954
- Hans Rosbaud with the Südwestfunk Symphonie Orchester, Baden-Baden, 1957
- Dimitri Mitropoulos with the New York Philharmonic, 1960
- Leopold Ludwig and the London Symphony Orchestra, 1960
- Dimitri Mitropoulos with the Vienna Philharmonic, 1960
- Bruno Walter with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, 1960
- Sir John Barbirolli, with the Berlin Philharmonic, 1964
- Kirill Kondrashin with the Moscow State Philharmonic, 1964
- Leonard Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic, 1965
- Jascha Horenstein with the London Symphony Orchestra, April, 1966
- Jascha Horenstein with the London Symphony Orchestra, September, 1966
- Karel Ancerl with the Czech Philharmonic, 1966
- Otto Klemperer and the New Philharmonia Orchestra, 1967.
- Rafael Kubelik with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, 1967
- Georg Solti with the London Symphony Orchestra, 1967
- Vaclav Neumann with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, 1967
- Maurice Abravanel with the Utah Symphony, 1967
- Georg Szell with the Cleveland Orchestra, 1968
- Bernard Haitink, with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, 1969
- Leonard Bernstein with the Vienna Philharmonic, 1971
- Carlo Maria Giulini with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1976 (Grammy Award winner)
- Wyn Morris with the Sinfonica of London, 1978
- James Levine with the Philadelphia Orchestra, 1979
- Kurt Sanderling with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, 1979
- Klaus Tennstedt with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, 1979
- Leonard Bernstein with the Berlin Philharmonic, 1979 (Grammy Award winner)
- Eliahu Inbal with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, 1979
- Herbert von Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic, 1979-80
- Vaclav Neumann with the Czech Philharmonic, 1982
- Georg Solti with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1982 (Grammy Award winner)
- Herbert von Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic, 1982 (Gramophone Record of the Year)
- Lorin Maazel with the Vienna Philharmonic, 1984
- Leonard Bernstein with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, 1985
- Kazuo Yamada with the New Japan Philharmonic, 1986
- Eliahu Inbal with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, 1986
- Claudio Abbado with the Vienna Philharmonic, 1986
- Bernard Haitink, with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, 1987
- Michael Gielen with the Südwestfunk Symphonie Orchester, Baden-Baden, 1990
- James Judd with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, 1990
- Libor Pesek with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, 1990
- Gary Bertini with the Kölner Rundfunk Sinfonie Orchester, 1991
- Leif Segerstam with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra,1991
- Kurt Sanderling with the Philharmonia Orchestra, 1992
- Evgeny Svetlanov with the Russian State Symphony Orchestra, 1992
- Sir Simon Rattle with the Vienna Philharmonic, 1993
- Bernard Haitink with the European Community Youth Orchestra, 1993
- Rudolf Barshai with the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, 1993
- Giuseppe Sinopoli with the Philharmonia Orchestra, 1993
- Kurt Masur with the New York Philharmonic, 1994
- Michael Halasz with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, NAXOS 8.550535-36, 1994
- Pierre Boulez with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1995 (Grammy Award winner)
- Christoph von Dohnányi with the Cleveland Orchestra, 1997
- Jesús López-Cobos with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, 1997
- Giuseppe Sinopoli with the Staatskapelle Dresden, 1997
- James Levine with the Munich Philharmonic, 1999
- Benjamin Zander with the Philharmonia Orchestra, 1999
- Claudio Abbado with the Berlin Philharmonic, 1999
- Seiji Ozawa with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, 2002
- Michael Gielen with the Südwestfunk Symphonie Orchester, Baden-Baden, 2003
- Riccardo Chailly with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, 2004
- Michael Tilson Thomas with the San Francisco Symphony, 2005
- Robert Olson with the Colorado Mahler Festival Orchestra, 2005
- Gerard Schwarz with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, 2006
- Daniel Barenboim with the Staatskapelle Berlin, 2006 (CD)
- Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, 2006
- Zdenek Macal with the Czech Philharmonic, 2007
- Daniel Barenboim with the Staatskapelle Berlin, 2007 (DVD)
- Jonathan Nott with the Bamberg Symphony, 2008
- Sir Simon Rattle with the Berlin Philharmonic, 2009
- Esa-Pekka Salonen with the Philharmonia Orchestra, 2009
- Eiji Oue with the Norddeutscher Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester, Hamburg, 2009
- Alan Gilbert with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, 2009
- David Zinman with the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich, 2009
- Jukka-Pekka Saraste with the WDR Symphony Orchestra of Koln, 2009
- Sir Roger Norrington with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, 2010
- Seiji Ozawa with the Saito Kinen Orchestra, 2010
- Claudio Abbado with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, 2010
- Valery Gergiev with the London Symphony Orchestra, 2011
- Bernard Haitink with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, 2011
- Lorin Maazel with the Philharmonia Orchestra, 2011
- Eckehard Stier with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, 2012
- Gustavo Dudamel with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, 2013
- Myung-Whun Chung with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, 2014
- Donald Runnicles with the Scottish Symphony Orchestra, 2014
- Daniel Barenboim with the La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra, Milan 2014
- Michael Schønwandt with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, 2014
- Ivan Fischer with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, 2015
- 'Gustav Mahler', in New Grove, Macmillan, 1980
- "Program Notes- Mahler Symphony No.9 in D Major" (PDF). Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
- Constantin Floros, GUSTAV MAHLER The Symphonies(2000)
- Mitchell, Donald (2002) The Mahler Companion OUP
- Leonard Bernstein conducts and comments Mahler's Ninth Symphony
- Henry de La Grange, Gustav Mahler, Vol. 4 - Oxford University Press, 2008
- Lewis Thomas: Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony
- Quoted in the liner notes to Mahler: Symphony No. 9, Berliner Philharmoniker/Herbert von Karajan
- Quoted in Herbert von Karajan: A Life in Music by Richard Osborne
- The Unanswered Question by Leonard Bernstein
- Chord and Discord, February 1932, p. 23
- Published by ACCENTUS Music: No. ACC20214
- Extensive history and analysis by renowned Mahler scholar Henry-Louis de La Grange at the Wayback Machine (archived June 12, 2008)