London Symphony Orchestra

Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Both a frequent and a very welcome guest, Sir Simon Rattle takes to the podium at Musikfest Berlin for the last time as Chief Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. Fittingly the conductor and orchestra bring with them a valedictory work: though, for all its melancholy, Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony under Rattle will certainly not be a “definitive farewell.”

Sir Simon Rattle

Sir Simon Rattle

© Oliver Helbig

19:10, South Foyer
Work introduction

“The greatest thing Mahler ever wrote,” is what the composer Alban Berg called the opening movement of the Ninth Symphony. “It is the expression of a tremendous love for this earth, the yearning to live upon it in peace, to enjoy it to the full, to its deepest depths – before death comes. Because its coming is inevitable.” Indeed, in this work Mahler – already suffering from heart disease – followed a dance of death that circles in upon itself with an aggressive rondo-burlesque that his biographer Jens Malte Fischer called “The Tornadoes of Life”, a reference to the piano piece “The Storms of Life” that Franz Schubert wrote shortly before his death. To this day, words like “ending” and “farewell” come to mind when thinking of Mahler’s Ninth. For Sir Simon Rattle, who has already made several rousing recordings of the Ninth, it is “not a definitive farewell. And it is not in any way sentimental, it’s more stoical. That doesn’t mean there is no anger, no rising up to be felt there. But the journey that is narrated here is sustained by great acceptance, even when it becomes increasingly hard to breathe.” For the performers, Rattle goes on, the main priority has to be enabling the ambivalence of this profound music to be heard: “The symphony can be redolent of deep, black depression, but also of love and longing.” At the end of his term as Chief Conductor of the British ensemble, Rattle now presents his present perspective on Mahler’s Ninth Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra: “This is a piece that makes the character of the performers, of the conductor and of the orchestra, visible like no other.”

Concert Programme

Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911)
Symphony No. 9 (1909/10)

A Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin event