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1. Mahler: 9th Symphony 

 […] I am listening as I write this to Mahler’s 9th
Mahler is in the room with me 
and the chills run up my arms,
reach the back of my neck 
It’s all so unbelievably
 
splendid,
 
splendid!
 

Excerpt from:  Classical Music & Me by Charles Bukowski


Just as rock music has the 27 club, classical music has ‘The Curse Of The Ninth’. In essence it is related to the inconvenient truth that many great composers died during or shortly after completing their Ninth Symphony. The Curse Of The Ninth has an impressive body count, and we sure as hell lost great men to it. Men like Beethoven, Bruckner, Dvorak and Schubert. And Gustav Mahler…

Mahler was 49 when he started working on his Ninth. He was well in his coffin when it premiered in Amsterdam. Official cause of death: a broken heart. Life is seldom kind to the most talented in the arts. Shortly after he lost his 4-year old daughter to scarlet fever, Mahler himself was diagnosed with a heart condition that was bound to send him to an early grave. 

His Ninth is is widely considered a prefiguring of his own death, and one of the most death-haunted places in symphonic music. At the end of the final movement - right were the music is slowly dying away - Mahler wrote “Farewell cruel world. Farewell! Farewell!” on the original sheet music.

Bukowski calls Mahler's Ninth "unbelievably splendid", whereas great conductors and critics have called it "terrifying","‘paralysing" and "the most revelatory, transformative experiences of my musical life." It is the undisputed #1 on this arbitrary list. 

Recommended recording:
Claudio Abbado & Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Abbado guides us to the cliffs overlooking the Nine Circles Of Hell, from where we stare death straight in the eye.

▶︎ PLAY ON SPOTIFY

 

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