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Mahler's Ninth Symphony: a career capstone and emotional farewell

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Join us on Sunday, Sept 3 at 1 p.m. on WRTI 90.1 and Monday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. on WRTI HD-2 as The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert features an encore presentation of a 2019 concert led by music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, devoted to a complete performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 in D major.

Mahler penned his last completed symphony in 1909. At the time, he was haunted by traumatic events: the death of his beloved daughter, Maria Anna; the infidelity of his wife, Alma; and his own diagnosis with a serious and life-threatening heart condition. Indeed, Mahler would not live to rehearse or perform his Ninth Symphony. He died less than two years after completing it, at the untimely age of 50.

The work’s tormented first movement, Andante comodo, is based on a halting syncopated figure often compared to Mahler’s own irregular heartbeat. The fourth-movement Adagio, remarks Nézet-Séguin, is “an end that doesn’t want to end.” These two massive slow movements bookend two faster ones: a second-movement Ländler begins as an innocent country dance and takes on a more sinister character as it proceeds. The third movement is a highly varied Rondo-Burleske, interspersing fugal sections with grotesque and angry passages.

Though the composer did begin an unfinished Tenth Symphony in 1910, Yannick calls the Ninth his “real farewell,” noting that its closing pages are “Mahler at his purest.”


Mahler: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 13

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor


Melinda Whiting: Host

Alex Ariff: Senior Producer

Susan Lewis: Consulting Producer

Joseph Patti: Broadcast Engineer

Listen to The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts every Sunday at 1 p.m. on WRTI 90.1, streaming at WRTI.org, on the WRTI mobile app, and on your smart speaker. Listen again on Mondays at 7 p.m. on WRTI HD-2. Listen for up to two weeks after broadcast on WRTI Replay. 

Melinda has worked in radio for decades, hosting and producing classical music and arts news. An award-winning broadcaster, she has created and hosted classical music programs and reported for NPR, WQXR—New York, WHYY–Philadelphia, and American Public Media. WRTI listeners may remember her years hosting classical music for WFLN and WHYY.