Gustav Mahler

Symphony No. 9 in D major

    Description by Steven Coburn

    Where Das Lied von der Erde ended with gentle resignation, here Mahler attacks death head-on with music of profound violence and irony. The grim character of the music, certain cryptic phrases Mahler marked into the drafts of the symphony, and the recurring use of an unusual motive and chord progression from Beethoven's "Les adieux" Sonata, Op. 81, have led commentators to believe that this symphony is autobiographical, a kind of "farewell" symphony. Since Mahler immediately proceeded to the composition of his Tenth Symphony, though, this interpretation is without real merit. It seems sufficient to accept that death, once again, is simply an obsessive theme.

    Musically, what is new in this symphony is a synthesis of the sharp-edged style of the Sixth and Seventh with the rarefied, contrapuntal technique of Das Lied. Combined with Mahler's increasingly advanced harmony and sophisticated thematic development, the result is music that is more closely allied with the expressionism of Schoenberg than with Mahler's earlier romanticism. At times it approaches a complete collapse of tonality, blurring traditional thematic and tonal differentiations in a totally modernistic way.

    Andante comodo (Moving.) This powerful and devastating movement begins innocently enough with gentle figures in the strings, harp, and horns and expands into a beautifully resigned, sighing theme. Soon it is interrupted by a chromatic and despairing theme. These two ideas alternate in various forms, rising to several great climaxes. The movement culminates in a complete transfiguration of the opening motives into a nearly cacophonous collapse. It never recovers as solo instruments seem to wander aimlessly before the final resignation of the coda.

    Im Tempo eines gemächlichen Ländlers. (In a leisurely Ländler Tempo.) This dance movement alternates a quirky and awkward Ländler devoid of charm with a tawdry Waltz, clearly meant to evoke cheap, popular styles as a metaphor for the pointlessness of life. These two ideas intermingle in increasingly complex ways, only interrupted once by a more gentle, nostalgic Trio.

    Rondo. Burleske. Allegro assai. Sehr trotzig. (Very fast and defiantly.) This is ostensibly a Scherzo, but has the proportions and weight of a Finale. It is also Mahler's most modern movement, consisting of intensely complex and dissonant linear counterpoint. There are alternations with some grotesque band music, but these only add to the insanely off-balance and violently ferocious general style. This wild pandemonium is interrupted suddenly by a transcendent section reminiscent of the beginning of the symphony. It slowly expands into a passionate melody for the strings before finally returning to the diabolical. The ending is defiant and grim.

    Adagio. Sehr Langsam und noch zurückhaltend. (Very slow yet still held back.) The violence of the preceding movement is transformed into a calm, if bitter, acceptance. A hymn-like passage of stately character seems to express Mahler's deepest yearnings. This alternates with a somewhat spare, rarefied section in barest counterpoint that seems to express emotional exhaustion. A big and tragic climax, highlighted by a fanfare transfigured from the first movement leads to the resigned and quiet coda.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Andante comodo
    2. Im Tempo eines gemächlichen Ländlers. Etwas täppisch und sehr derb
    3. Rondo-Burleske. Allegro assai. Sehr trotzig
    4. Adagio. Sehr langsam und noch zurückhaltend

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Harmonia Mundi HMM 902258
    2018 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon 4798418
    2018 BR Klassik BRK 900714
    2018 Opus KURA OPK 2121
    2018 BR Klassik 900157
    2017 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 17007
    2017 BR Klassik BRK 900151
    2017 Warner Classics 9029586917
    2017 SWR Music SWR 19042
    2016 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 14000
    2016 Warner Classics 554935
    2016 Exton 87
    2016 Oehms Classics OC 029
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795553
    2015 Hallé CDHLD 7541
    2015 Signum Classics SIGCD 362
    2015 Signum Classics SIGCD 359
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4811109
    2015 Channel Classics CCSSA 36115
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Oehms Classics OC 654
    2014 Ars Produktion / Ars Produktion ARS 38155
    2014 Challenge Classics CC 72636
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 EMI Classics
    2014 MDG
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon 4786973
    2014 Warner Classics 2564627828
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon B 001796902
    2013 National Youth Orchestra Canada 2013 CD
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 4791046
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 001931702
    2012 Berlin Classics 0300440BC
    2012 LSO Live LSO 0730
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 BR Klassik 900113
    2012 Helicon Classics HEL 029656
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099967829
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 4790561
    2012 New York Philharmonic NYP 20120104
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 002894779628
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Archipel ARPCD0514
    2011 RCA Red Seal 88697727232
    2011 Decca
    2011 Warner Classics
    2011 Profil / Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 10035
    2011 EMI Classics 918725
    2011 MDG 64817192
    2011 LSO Live LSO 0668
    2011 Archipel APPCD 0520
    2011 Musical Concepts MC182
    2010 Sony Classical 8869768365
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Decca
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4778825
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 RCA Red Seal 8869768609
    2010 Decca
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Decca
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4778620
    2010 Decca
    2010 Decca
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 RCA Gold Seal / RCA Red Seal 8869772690
    2010 Haenssler / Hänssler Classic 93244
    2010 Decca
    2010 Signum Classics / Signum UK 188
    2010 Decca
    2010 Decca
    2010 Naxos 8501502
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099960898
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 477 926-0
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4779260
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4778668
    2010 Decca
    2010 Decca
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 477 866-8
    2010 IDIS 6599
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records 00795041952066
    2009 Apex 4692299
    2009 BIS 1710
    2009 Tudor Records 7162
    2009 Sony Classical Essential Classics 745369
    2008 Oehms 345
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099950122
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 447023
    2008 Artek 41
    2008 BBC Legends / BBC Music 42322
    2008 Relief CR 991072
    2008 EMI Classics 3800082
    2007 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099950072
    2007 Warner Music 64316
    2007 Arte Nova 893550
    2007 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946380003
    2007 EMI Classics
    2007 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 7004
    2007 Apex
    2007 Decca
    2007 Brilliant 93178
    2006 Document 223511
    2006 Supraphon 38802
    2006 Edel Classics 2342
    2006 EMI Music Distribution 40238
    2006 Doremi Records 7850
    2006 Berlin Classics 0017952
    2006 Opus KURA 2060
    2006 BBC Legends / BBC Music 41792
    2006 Rhino
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 002894775187
    2005 Real Sound (RS) 71
    2005 Decca 4756191
    2005 Virgin Classics
    2005 Virgin 61475
    2005 Designo 222514
    2005 San Francisco Symphony 60007
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 62965
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 63029
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Living Stage 1084
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Apex 4620342
    2004 Sony Music Distribution 92460
    2004 Oehms 503
    2004 Virgin Classics 62395
    2004 Haenssler 93130
    2004 Supraphon 36932
    2004 Haenssler 93098
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 4745372
    2003 Brilliant 92005
    2003 Sony Music Distribution 87874
    2003 Music & Arts 1123
    2003 Artemis Classics 1223
    2003 EMI
    2003 EMI
    2002 Simax 1270
    2002 Berlin Classics 0094412
    2002 Deutsche Grammophon 471 624-2GH
    2002 EMI Classics 67926
    2002 Brilliant 99549
    2001 Audite 95471
    2001 Classica d'Oro 1025
    2001 Philips 464714
    2001 Sony Classical 89499
    2001 Andante 4997-5000
    2000 Stradivarius 10012
    2000 Teldec 21339
    2000 Nuova Era 7340
    2000 CPO 999479
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 463609
    2000 Arkadia 78582
    1999 Chandos 905759
    1999 Decca 458902
    1999 Telarc Distribution 3CD80527
    1999 Philips 462299
    1999 Living Stage 34705
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 67039
    1999 Magic Master 37017
    1999 New York Philharmonic 000
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 459080
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 457581
    1998 EMI Music Distribution 556580
    1998 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 7243572941
    1998 Music & Arts 1021
    1998 Music & Arts CD-1021
    1997 Everest 9059
    1997 Chandos 9572
    1997 Dutton Vocalion 5005
    1997 Telarc Distribution 80426
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453040
    1996 Capriccio Records 49043
    1996 Naxos 550535
    1996 Magic Talent 48007
    1996 Russian Season 288132
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 64452
    1995 Deutsche Grammophon 439678
    1995 Intercord Klassische Diskothek 860913
    1995 Deutsche Grammophon 445817
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 47585
    1995 Vox 5509
    1995 Teldec 90882
    1995 Supraphon 1954
    1994 Deutsche Grammophon 439024
    1994 Berlin Classics 0021872
    1994 Originals 806
    1994 Supraphon 1860
    1994 Orfeo 228901
    1994 Deutsche Grammophon 437467
    1994 Supraphon 1980
    1994 Decca
    1994 Philips 442050
    1993 Denon Records 1566
    1993 BIS 632
    1992 Deutsche Grammophon 435378
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48198
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 64481
    1992 London 430804
    1989 Deutsche Grammophon 429042
    1989 EMI Music Distribution 63115
    1986 Deutsche Grammophon 419 208-2GH2
    Deutsche Grammophon 459094
    Memories 4493
    Enterprise 4172
    Palladio 4172/73
    Deutsche Grammophon 410726
    Brilliant Classics 8635/79
    Brilliant 99549/9
    Brilliant 93178/25
    Vanguard 29/30
    Music & Arts 785
    Decca 000343302
    Deutsche Grammophon 471 451-2GB15
    Deutsche Grammophon 435162
    Arkadia 754
    Blue Saphir 830881
    Disques Montaigne 8862
    Nuova Era 0336709
    Capriccio Records 49062
    EMI Music Distribution 54387
    Philips 426302
    CBS Records 42200
    Philips 416466
    Ars Vivendi 2200224
    Bescol 529
    Iron Needle 1433
    As Disc 2509
    London 410012
    Grammofono 2000 78818
    Erato 45816
    Carlton 91562
    Fonit-Cetra Italia 2062
    Dutton Laboratories 9708
    IMP Classics 1025
    BBC Legends 40752
    Virgin 791219
    Music & Arts 235
    Arkadia 28
    Arkadia 16
    Canyon Classics 305
    Supraphon 111980
    Supraphon 111954
    Arkadia 747
    Melodram 18038
    Le Chant du Monde 288132
    RCA 3461
    Virgin 59635
    Chandos 9057
    Vanguard 2030
    Decca 4756686
    Testament 1365