During his fifth Norton lecture at Harvard University, Leonard Bernstein famously speculated that Mahler's ninth symphony was symbolically prophesying his own death, the death of tonality (the advent of atonality) and the death of "Faustian" culture.

I find his daring and romantic interpretation quite interesting. Is there any evidence to suggest that Mahler actually intended this to be the purpose of his ninth? Did he suspect in some manner that some cataclysmic event was going to shake Europe to its very core as Bernstein suggested? Or are we, perhaps, reading too much into the work?

Would appreciate any information about this.

  • 2
    Hopefully you’re looking for hard evidence and primary sources. I can mention, though, hearing that he put off a ninth symphony because he had a superstitious fear that he would die after it as Beethoven had. Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 20:37
  • @AndyBonner that's a great contribution. Yes! I am looking for hard evidence.
    – John05
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 21:03
  • See also John Mangum; Symphony No. 9
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 10:07


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