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MAHLER 9 16, 17 & 19 MARCH 2018


MELBOURNE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Aspiring to the sublime: Mahler 9 ‘Wohin ich geh'? Ich geh', ich wand're in die Berge. Ich suche Ruhe für mein einsam Herz.’ (Where do I go? I go, I wander in the mountains. I seek peace for my lonely heart.) Mahler’s Ninth Symphony continues where Der Abschied, the last movement from his Lied von der Erde, ends. A similar feeling of farewell and resignation permeates most of this Symphony. Is it a coincidence that the first movement opens with a motif that alludes to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.26 Les Adieux? Beethoven wrote the word ‘Le-be-wohl’ (Farewell) above the three descending chords that Mahler quotes in his Symphony. The two middle movements are an emotional rollercoaster, with an angelic trumpet melody in the Rondo Burlesque pointing at the sublime serenity of the Adagio that concludes the Symphony. The last page of the Ninth is the most visionary in all of Mahler’s oeuvre. Here, the music becomes silence and this silence is deafening. As Leonard Bernstein, the great Mahlerian, whose anniversary we celebrate this year, wrote: ‘...the strands of sound disintegrate. We hold on to them, hovering between hope and submission… We cling to them as they dematerialise; we are holding two – then one. One, and suddenly none. For a petrifying moment there is only silence. Then again, a strand, a broken strand, two strands, one... none. We are half in love with easeful death... now more than ever seems it rich to die, to cease upon the midnight with no pain...

And in ceasing, we lose it all. But in letting go, we have gained everything.’ Almost at the end of MSO’s Mahler cycle of Symphonies, the Ninth aspires to the sublime, and to what lies beyond. Ronald Vermeulen Director of Artistic Planning

For further listening we recommend: On 7–8 June, conductor Andrea Molino will lead the MSO in a Mahler rarity: the tone poem Totenfeier. This work became the basis for the first movement of Mahler’s Second Symphony. But even after the Symphony’s premiere, Mahler kept performing Totenfeier as a separate piece. In the same concert, Mahler-baritone par excellence, Thomas Hampson will perform the Songs of a Wayfarer.

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Sir Andrew Davis conductor Mahler Symphony No.9

There are many good recordings of the Ninth Symphony. I wouldn’t want to be without the insights of Bruno Walter, who conducted the world premiere – and his recording comes with an interview and rehearsal fragments (Sony), Leonard Bernstein’s performance from the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, or Carlo Maria Giulini’s deeply human interpretation from Chicago (both Deutsche Grammophon). For an excellent, more recent, version, look at the DVD of the Luzern Festival Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado on Accentus.

Running time 1 hour and 30 minutes, there will be no interval during this concert In consideration of your fellow patrons, the MSO thanks you for dimming the lighting on your mobile phone.

The MSO acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are performing. We pay our respects to their Elders, past and present, and the Elders from other communities who may be in attendance.






Symphony No.9 in D Andante comodo Im Tempo eines gemächlichen Ländlers. Etwas täppisch und sehr derb (In the tempo of a leisurely Ländler. Rather clumsy and very coarse). Established in 1906, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) is an arts leader and Australia’s longest-running professional orchestra. Chief Conductor Sir Andrew Davis has been at the helm of MSO since 2013. Engaging more than 3 million people each year, the MSO reaches a variety of audiences through live performances, recordings, TV and radio broadcasts and live streaming. Sir Andrew Davis gave his inaugural concerts as the MSO’s Chief Conductor in 2013. The MSO also works with Associate Conductor Benjamin Northey and Assistant Conductor Tianyi Lu, as well as with such eminent recent guest conductors as Tan Dun, John Adams, Jakub Hrůša and JukkaPekka Saraste. It has also collaborated with non-classical musicians including Sir Elton John, Nick Cave and Armand van Helden.


SIR ANDREW DAVIS Chief Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis is also Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He is Conductor Laureate of both the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Symphony, where he has also been named interim Artistic Director until 2020. In a career spanning more than 40 years he has conducted virtually all the world’s major orchestras and opera companies Sir Andrew’s many CDs include a Messiah nominated for a 2018 Grammy, Bliss’ The Beatitudes, and a recording with the Bergen Philharmonic of Vaughan Williams’ Job/Symphony No.9 nominated for a 2018 BBC Music Magazine Award. With the MSO he has just released a third recording in the ongoing Richard Strauss series, featuring the Alpine Symphony and Till Eulenspiegel.

Rondo-Burleske (Allegro assai) Sehr trotzig (Very defiant) Adagio At the end of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, completed in 1904, three mighty hammer blows thunder down, a symbol of fate so terrifying that Mahler himself removed one of them from the revised score of 1906. But perhaps it was too late and the gods had been tempted once too often. In the following year, 1907, Mahler himself suffered his own triple disaster. His beloved four-year-old daughter, Maria, died from scarlet fever, Mahler himself was sacked from the Vienna State Opera where he had served with distinction for ten years, and he was diagnosed with a terminal heart condition. Not surprisingly, especially given the poor state of his general health, Mahler collapsed into a psychological heap, ‘as a tree is felled’. The stress on him and his family became intolerable. As the ailing Mahler sought to rebuild his career in New York, commuting back and forth annually across the Atlantic so that his longstanding routine of summer composition in Europe could continue, his wife, Alma, suffered a nervous breakdown of her own.

As time went on and the strains of life showed no signs of abating, Mahler emerged into a curious mixture of despair and elation. ‘I have lived through so much in the last year and a half, that I can hardly talk about it,’ he wrote to his conducting disciple Bruno Walter in 1909. ‘How should I attempt to describe so appalling a crisis! I see everything in a new light – feel so much alive, and the habit of being alive is sweeter than ever. I should not be surprised at times if suddenly I should notice that I had a new body (like Faust in the last scene)!’ The wild mood swings continued and while Mahler completed his Seventh and then Eighth Symphonies, he and Alma began to go their separate ways, she into the arms of other lovers, he into consultations with psychotherapists including, most famously, an encounter with Sigmund Freud in 1910. Although their love endured until the end, their new mutual directions meant that Alma and Mahler began to spend their summers apart. In 1909, Alma deposited Mahler at his composing hut near Toblach and continued on herself to Levico, where she sought treatment for her ongoing nervous condition. Mahler’s own state of mind was euphoric to the point of delusion. ‘I feel marvellous here!’ he wrote to her. ‘To be able to sit working by the open window, and breathing the air, the trees and flowers all the time – this is a delight I have never known till now. I see now how perverse my life in summer has always been. I feel myself getting better every minute.’


Less than two years later, Mahler was dead. Despite his bravura, Mahler knew all along that the end was near. He could feel his weak heart faltering, its erratic beat leaving him faint and shaky. He felt uncharacteristically superstitious, sometimes with good reason. In the last summer of Mahler’s life, while he sat composing in the hut at Toblach, for instance, a giant eagle swooped into the room, terrifying the composer. Eventually the eagle fled, but no sooner had it done so than a crow emerged from under Mahler’s sofa, it too flying back out the window. Mahler’s sanctuary of composition had been invaded by what he saw as the black harbingers of death, just as Van Gogh had depicted in his final painting. A simple, unnerving act of nature perhaps, but after the invasion of the birds Mahler would never complete another composition, nor hear his Ninth Symphony performed. Mahler hadn’t wanted to write a Ninth Symphony at all, or at least he had never wanted to name one as his Ninth. Too many of his idols, including Beethoven, Schubert and Bruckner, had died after completing nine such works. So the work which was effectively his Ninth Symphony Mahler renamed Das Lied von der Erde, and pointedly referred to it as a ‘songsymphony’. Arnold Schoenberg, who was perhaps second only to Bruno Walter as Mahler’s closest professional confidant in his final years, said in a memorial speech in 1912 that ‘the Ninth is a limit. He who wants to go beyond it must pass away…Those who have written a Ninth stood too near to the hereafter.’


But by the time 1909 rolled around, Mahler’s ‘dark night of the soul’, as Deryck Cooke has described the mood of his final years, meant that his superstitions were no longer sufficient to prevent him from naming this work in D as his Ninth Symphony. Apparently seeing the end drawing near, he had little option but to acknowledge the likelihood of fate, although he did make a point of not showing the score to Walter – the latter, who had heard so much about it, would only see it after the composer’s death. And as it turned out, Mahler’s Ninth Symphony did indeed become his last, the elaborate draft for the Tenth that followed in the final year of his life notwithstanding. All the evidence suggests that Mahler knew it would be his last, for the mood of farewell is everywhere in the Ninth Symphony. By implication it’s there in the painfully elegiac mood of the slow outer movements, and it’s there more explicitly too through the self-conscious, deliberate references to Beethoven’s Lebewohl (Farewell) Sonata. And throughout the original manuscript score, there are the interjections of a dying man: ‘O youth! Lost! O love! Vanished!’ Mahler wrote in one part of the first movement. ‘Farewell! Farewell!’ appears in another. In the best possible way, it’s like the symphony of an old man looking back, but Mahler was not yet 50 when he completed it. Even so, its 80-minute duration is not all filled with sentiment and nostalgia. There is anger and defiance too. In the final published version of the score, for instance, the apocalyptic intention is inscribed in the markings: ‘With ire’, ‘With greatest force’, ‘Like a solemn funeral procession’.

Sometimes in this majestic symphony Mahler was going ‘gentle into that good night’ – but sometimes he wasn’t. Again as if aware of his mortality, Mahler worked on the symphony in great haste, writing to Bruno Walter, ‘I wrote the score quite rapidly, in maddening haste…as a result, the score is probably indecipherable for strangers’ eyes.’ He told Walter that he hoped he would live until the winter so that he could prepare a clean copy of the score. Mahler was spared. By April 1910 he had completed the ‘proper’ copy of the score. But he would never conduct it himself: the premiere was given by Walter in Vienna only in June 1912, more than a year after Mahler’s death. Many years later, the first three movements of that original ‘indecipherable’ manuscript turned up in the possession of its greatest admirer, the composer Alban Berg. He, more than anyone besides Walter (who was still conducting it in 1961), became a champion of the work which he described as ‘the most glorious that [Mahler] ever wrote. It expresses an extraordinary love of this earth, for Nature; the longing to live on it in peace, to enjoy it completely, to the very heart of one’s being, before death comes, as irresistibly it does.’ There are clear spiritual and emotional connections between the Ninth Symphony and Das Lied von der Erde. Walter himself commented that the title of the song cycle’s final canto, Der Abschied (Farewell), could equally have served as the heading for the later symphony. But like the First, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh works in the Mahler symphonic canon, the Ninth is a purely instrumental piece. And by Mahler’s standards its

instrumentation is modest, requiring little more than a normal large orchestra such as many of his contemporaries might have used. Throughout his career, Mahler effectively rewrote the rule book of symphonic composition, and never more so than here in the Ninth Symphony. Its sequence of movements and disposition of keys are virtually unprecedented. The slow movements form the outer pillars, framing the grotesque, even nightmarish quicker movements in the middle. The opening movement is in D major/minor, the middle two are in C major and A minor respectively, while the massive finale avoids all precedent by dropping a half-step from the nominal tonic of the symphony as a whole to D flat major, eventually dying into utter, desolate silence. It was not, of course, the only time that Mahler would end with a slow movement. As early as 1896 he employed such a device to devastating emotional effect in his Third Symphony. Nor was it the only time that a funereal quality would pervade the outer movements of his symphonies, as the funeral march which opens the Fifth Symphony attests. But for all of its disparate, conventionbreaking ingredients, in one way the Ninth remains a remarkably coherent symphony in the Classical sense, sustained as it is by its extraordinary unanimity of mood. The overall picture is one of the world caught as if in a dying glimpse – its beauty, its joy, its horror and ugliness, its compassion and cruelty all captured within the one frame and held up to examination as the light fades. While there is anger in this inevitable, inexorable farewell, there is also, abidingly, a most poignant sadness.


‘The whole movement is based on a premonition of death, which constantly recurs,’ Alban Berg wrote of the mighty opening Andante comodo which sets the mood and ambition of the Ninth Symphony. ‘The tenderest passages are followed by tremendous climaxes, like new eruptions of a volcano.’

This is particularly the case in the second movement, which the great theorist Theodor Adorno described as a Totentanz or ‘Dance of Death’. As in the Fourth Symphony, the violins here become ‘death’s fiddles’, their tone strained and twisted, their dance-like motives more sinister than engaging.

And yet it all begins so simply, so beautifully, with the sighing three-note figure of farewell, perhaps deriving from Beethoven but made here unmistakeably Mahler’s own, not least because of its audibly faltering heartbeat. There are in fact two main themes in this first movement, but they are developed so organically and on such a grand scale that the precepts of sonata form become irrelevant as an analytical tool. Over the course of more than half an hour it develops what one of its first commentators, Paul Bekker, described as a ‘rhapsodically free structure’. If there is a mortar which binds this massive edifice together it is perhaps the simple harp notes F#-A-B-A which, after a brief, reflective exchange on cellos and horns, set the movement on its course and recur at key points. There are plenty of rests for peace – acceptance even, of a kind unprecedented in Mahler’s earlier work – but the passion continually surges forth in the minor-key inflections of the second thematic group and the harsh blasts of trumpet chords. It is a symphony in itself, and beyond it there are still three movements to go.

Mahler didn’t know what to call this unnerving movement. He toyed for a while with ‘Scherzo’ and then replaced it with ‘Menuetto infinito’ but neither survived through the early drafts. Nor did the description of ‘Freund Hein’ (‘Friend Hein’ – a folk name for Death) who is not an ‘evil, terrifying god, but a friendly leader, fiddling his flock into the hereafter’. Such an innocent program would scarcely do justice to the macabre undercurrent in this crucial passage of the symphony as a whole – and by this stage of his career Mahler had largely abandoned the programmatic elements which had caused him so much grief in his earlier works.

Mahler himself said that the Ninth Symphony, while very different in itself, out of all his symphonies was nevertheless most closely linked to the spirit of his Fourth.


What this second movement is, however, is a series of ländler-like dances in different tempi: Mahler’s own tortured version of the apotheosis of the dance. Simple at first, they develop striking harmonic complexity as they proceed, ending up as typically Mahlerian dances-gone-sour. There is mockery, there is irony, and yet at the same time there is nostalgia and a guilty sentimentality, like a flash of life itself. While he might have had trouble naming his second movement, Mahler had no such problems with the third, which he called a Rondo-Burleske.

Strauss and Reicha before Mahler had tried their hands at comic ‘burlesques’, but neither did so with the telling effect found here in this musical phantasmagoria. Again in this third movement, there is a sense almost of derision as the woes of the world are recalled and re-examined. (This movement has often been compared with the Drinking Song of the Earth’s Sorrow from Das Lied von der Erde.) Agitation becomes manifest as the contrapuntal textures develop with alarming complexity. But this is no academic exercise or mere demonstration of technical skill. The structure falls apart continually – and at one memorable moment is interrupted by a solemn chorale – as the pieces of life which the themes imitate constantly fail to deliver a complete whole. Only a compositional genius who was also a philosophical giant could bring it off. Fortunately Mahler was both, and, as the latter parts of this intense movement demonstrate, a self-mocker to boot. And then there comes the finale. Just 16 pages long in a score of more than 180 pages, it nevertheless is huge in duration and emotional power, its tempo so slow (ending Adagissimo) that it takes more than 25 minutes to perform. While Mahler had composed several comparable Adagios, most notably in the Third and Fourth Symphonies, its sense of finality makes it perhaps the finest single movement which Mahler ever composed.

In its solemnity, humanity and structural mastery one finds the very essence of Mahler’s art – and of his life, which was for him one and the same thing. There is a continual ebb and flow of intensity, heightening as the climaxes are reached, dissipating as a momentary digression is made, but always, constantly, with the main matter coming back in a new guise, moving onward, but also moving toward nothingness as it does so. It is a majestic, painful journey, from the glorious reference to Beethoven’s Lebewohl Sonata at the opening, through that fateful series of almost unbearable last-word climaxes, and on through the strings toward the inevitable conclusion in complete silence. There is death in this, and its apprehension is so urgent, so immediate, as to make Mahler – and his listeners alike – reaffirm, and perhaps even fall in love with life all over again. For in the end, we all face the same fate. Martin Buzacott © 2002 The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra first performed this symphony on 18 November 1953 under the direction of Ricardo Castro, and most recently in July 2009 with Ilan Volkov.



Monica Curro

Benjamin Northey

Assistant Principal Danny Gorog and Lindy Susskind #

Tianyi Lu

Mary Allison Isin Cakmakcioglu Freya Franzen

Associate Conductor Anthony Pratt #

Cybec Assistant Conductor

Hiroyuki Iwaki

Conductor Laureate (1974-2006) FIRST VIOLINS

Dale Barltrop Concertmaster

Sophie Rowell

Concertmaster The Ullmer Family Foundation#

Peter Edwards

Assistant Principal

Kirsty Bremner Sarah Curro

Michael Aquilina#

Peter Fellin Deborah Goodall Lorraine Hook Anne-Marie Johnson Kirstin Kenny Ji Won Kim Eleanor Mancini Mark Mogilevski Michelle Ruffolo Kathryn Taylor Michael Aquilina#

Aaron Barnden* Francesca Hiew*º Jennen Ngiau-Keng* Oksana Thompson* SECOND VIOLINS

Matthew Tomkins

Principal The Gross Foundation#

Robert Macindoe Associate Principal




David Berlin

Andrew Macleod

Grzegorz Curyla*

Principal MS Newman Family#

Rachael Tobin

Associate Principal


Zoe Freisberg Cong Gu Andrew Hall


Principal Third


Abbey Edlin

Robert Clarke

Rohan de Korte

The Rosemary Norman Foundation# COR ANGLAIS



Michael Pisani

Geoffrey Payne*

Yinuo Mu

Keith Johnson Sarah Morse Angela Sargeant Michelle Wood

Andrew and Theresa Dyer#


Principal Di Jameson#

Steve Reeves

Fiona Sargeant

Andrew Moon


Associate Principal

Associate Principal

Lauren Brigden

Sylvia Hosking

Katharine Brockman Christopher Cartlidge

Damien Eckersley Benjamin Hanlon Suzanne Lee Stephen Newton

Anthony Chataway Gabrielle Halloran Trevor Jones Cindy Watkin Elizabeth Woolnough Caleb Wright Merewyn Bramble* William Clark* Justin Julian* Matthew Laing* Isabel Morse*

Jeffrey Crellin

Trinette McClimont Rebecca Luton* Alexander Morton*

Isy Wasserman Philippa West Patrick Wong Roger Young Michael Loftus-Hills*

Michael Aquilina#

Saul Lewis

Miranda Brockman

Andrew and Judy Rogers

Mr Tam Vu and Dr Cherilyn Tillman


Lady Potter AC CMRI#

Associate Principal

Andrew Dudgeon#

Christopher Moore

Guest Principal


Geelong Friends of the MSO#


Adam Jeffrey


Nicholas Bochner Assistant Principal



Assistant Principal

Sophie Galaise and Clarence Fraser #

Alexander Arai-Swale* Esther Toh* FLUTES

Prudence Davis Principal Anonymous#

Wendy Clarke

Associate Principal

Sarah Beggs Paula Rae*

Thomas Hutchinson Ann Blackburn


Nereda Hanlon and Michael Hanlon AM#

Guest Principal


John Arcaro

Tim and Lyn Edward#

Robert Cossom Brent Miller*


Shane Hooton CLARINETS

Associate Principal

Bronwyn Wallis*

David Thomas

William Evans Rosie Turner



Philip Arkinstall

Associate Principal


Craig Hill Mitchell Jones*

Brett Kelly


Jon Craven Principal


Jack Schiller Principal


Michael Ullmer


Managing Director

Richard Shirley Mike Szabo

Sophie Galaise

Principal Bass Trombone TUBA

Timothy Buzbee Principal

Scott Watson* †

Elise Millman

Associate Principal


Brock Imison Principal

Board Members

Andrew Dyer Danny Gorog Margaret Jackson AC Di Jameson David Krasnostein David Li Hyon-Ju Newman Glenn Sedgwick Helen Silver AO Company Secretary

Oliver Carton

# Position supported by * Guest Musician † Courtesy of University of Kansas º Courtesy of Australian String Quartet ∆ Courtesy of Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra


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Debussy and Brahms Debussy Nocturnes Finsterer Missed Tales III – The Lost – World Premiere Brahms Symphony No.4 THURSDAY 5 APRIL | 7.30pm Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall Jun Märkl conductor

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Associate Conductor Chair Benjamin Northey Anthony Pratt

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Michael Ullmer Ila Vanrenen The Hon. Rosemary Varty Mr Tam Vu Marian and Terry Wills Cooke Mark Young Anonymous (24)

THE MAHLER SYNDICATE David and Kaye Birks Mary and Frederick Davidson AM Tim and Lyn Edward John and Diana Frew Francis and Robyn Hofmann The Hon Dr Barry Jones AC Dr Paul Nisselle AM Maria Solà The Hon Michael Watt QC and Cecilie Hall

The MSO gratefully acknowledges the support of the following Estates: Angela Beagley Neilma Gantner Gwen Hunt Audrey Jenkins Joan Jones Pauline Marie Johnston Joan Jones C P Kemp Peter Forbes MacLaren Joan Winsome Maslen Lorraine Maxine Meldrum Prof Andrew McCredie Miss Sheila Scotter AM MBE Marion A I H M Spence Molly Stephens Jennifer May Teague Jean Tweedie Herta and Fred B Vogel Dorothy Wood

The MSO relies on your ongoing philanthropic support to sustain our artists, and support access, education, community engagement and more. We invite our suporters to get close to the MSO through a range of special events. The MSO welcomes your support at any level. Donations of $2 and over are tax deductible, and supporters are recognised as follows: $1,000+ (Player) $2,500+ (Associate) $5,000+ (Principal) $10,000+ (Maestro)

$20,000+ (Impresario) $50,000+ (Virtuoso) $100,000+ (Platinum)

The MSO Conductor’s Circle is our bequest program for members who have notified of a planned gift in their Will. Enquiries | P (03) 8646 1551 | E

S  ignifies Adopt an MSO Musician supporter


SUPPORTERS SUPPORTERS SUPPORTERS Yes! I want to make a difference to the community by supporting the MSO’s Month of Giving.


Name Address

GOVERNMENT PARTNERS GOVERNMENT PARTNERS GOVERNMENT PARTNERS Phone Enclosed is my contribution of: $50 $100 $150 Other






Show your love for MSO.

Please charge in full $



Please charge monthly instalments of $ (number of payments per year)


Card number Expiry Signature ( If you prefer to charge by phone, please contact Garry Stocks on 8646 1551)

At over 100 years old, the MSO has been around for nearly as long as Melbourne. We want to continue to be here for you, and all of Melbourne, year after year, season after season.




Quest Southbank Quest Southbank Quest Southbank

Ernst & Young Bows for Strings Ernst & Young Bows for Strings Ernst & Young Bows for Strings



(payable to Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Pty Ltd)

EFT TO NAB ACCOUNT MSO Fund BSB 083 004 Account 89 393 2381 (include your name and 'Month of Giving' 

Donate today

in payment description)

ONLINE at I am interested in leaving a legacy of wonderful music for years to come:

and Claireand Mackinnon Trust, Sidney Myer MSO Trust Fund e Scobie e andScobie Claire e Mackinnon Trust, Sidney Myer MSO Trust Fund Scobie Claire Mackinnon Trust, Sidney Myer MSO Trust Fund

I have made a gift to the MSO in my Will I would consider including the MSO in my Will and would like more information


PLEASE RETURN TO MSO’s Month of Giving GPO Box 9994 Melbourne VIC 3001 All gifts over $2 are fully tax-deductible





Mahler 9 Concert Program  
Mahler 9 Concert Program