That work, called Das Lied von der Erde, went ahead without incident, and Mahler, set about the next symphony. So the Symphony No 9 is, in effect, his tenth such work. But he was grief-stricken at the death of a daughter, and was nursing a heart condition. And he died before its first performance, in Vienna, in 1911.
As Sir Simon Rattle, incoming music director of the London Symphony Orchestra observed in unveiling his first season back in London, Mahler's 9th is one of many works in the repertoire that was never heard by its own composer. And that puts a special responsibility upon orchestra and conductor, for there are none of those often useful accounts of a composer's hearing early performances and commenting on, for example, speed and dynamics.
There are scores and scores of recordings of Mahler's 9th, among them one by the London Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev, made in 2011, and for this live performance at the Barbican, they are conducted by the great German maestro Bernard Haitink, music director of the Royal Opera House from 1987 to 2002.
The colossal piece calls for a huge orchestra, and lasts about 90 minutes. Its four expansive and restless movements contain many of the elements of Mahler's earlier music, and are considered by some his finest achievement. Its live performance is certainly always an immersive event, and something to be savoured.
|What||Haitink, the LSO and Mahler, Barbican|
|Where||Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Barbican (underground)|
On 23 May 17, no interval
|Price||£10 - £42|
|Website||Click here for more information and booking|