Mahler, Symphony No. 9 in D / D-flat major (1910)

Presented to the
Western Institute for Lifelong Learning at WNMU
November 2016

Presented to the
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UTEP
October 2015


Course Description
Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, his "Farewell" Symphony, contains profound and complicated metaphors about loving this world while also recognizing the absurdity of the world and desperately trying to hold on to life. In what might be described as art that is quite personal yet universal in its message, the Ninth provides a passionate and touching farewell to life that ends with music becoming silence.

Bernard Haitink conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Click here to see the YouTube video
  • First Movement – begins at 0:00
  • Second Movement – begins at 30:31
  • Third Movement – begins at 48:33
  • Fourth Movement – begins at 1:03:04

General Information about Mahler and His Ninth Symphony
  • At the time Mahler composed his Ninth Symphony (1909-1910), he had recently confronted many personal crises: the death of his four-year-old daughter, the loss of his conducting job in Vienna, a failing marriage, and an awareness that his own heart disease might kill him.
  • Bruno Walter, a world-class conductor and devoted friend of Mahler's, wrote that the first movement of the Ninth Symphony provided "a unique soaring between farewell sadness and a vision of Heavenly Light [that] lifts the movement into an atmosphere of celestial bliss."
  • The conductor Herbert von Karajan described the Ninth as "music coming from another world, music coming from eternity."
  • Mahler's Ninth has also been described as a farewell to the Romantic era in music and the inevitability of modernist atonality. At times, the music of the Ninth travels on the edge of atonality.
  • Mahler died on May 18, 1911. He was only 50 years old when he died and did not live long enough to hear a performance of his Ninth Symphony.
  • In 1960, Leonard Bernstein used one of his televised concerts of classical music for young audiences to talk about Gustav Mahler. At the time, Mahler was relatively unknown to mainstream classical music audiences. Click her to watch a video of that program.

Online Articles about Mahler's Ninth Symphony

Recommended Books about Mahler and His Symphonies
(Click a book’s icon to see it on Amazon)



Recommended Box Set of Mahler's Symphonies, Including Bernard Haitnik Conducting Mahler's Fourth with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Click the icon to see the collection on Amazon)


For Something Completely Different: A Recording of Mahler's Ninth Performed by a Chamber Orchestra (Click the icon to see the album on Amazon)