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A spine-tingling performance of Gustav Mahler’s final completed symphony

Fin-de-siècle Vienna’s melting pot of cultures, psychological tensions, and intoxicating mix of tradition and modernity left indelible marks on the music of Gustav Mahler, as you’ll hear in this exclusive Vienna Philharmonic recording. He served as music director of the city’s imperial court opera, parent organization of the Vienna Philharmonic, and wrote his monumental symphonies with its famous orchestra clear in mind. His Ninth Symphony, the last that he was able to complete, was given its world premiere by the Vienna Philharmonic in 1912, just 13 months after the composer’s death.

The idea of bidding farewell, the all-too-often-painful process of parting from a loved one, runs through the Ninth like a main artery, giving life to its highly charged first movement and sustaining the aching nostalgia of its sublime finale. In between stand two movements filled respectively with the earthy energy of a rustic dance and the white-knuckle ride of what Mahler calls a “Burleske.” Love and loss, joy and sorrow, and every imaginable emotion in between find expression within the span of a work that somehow captures the essence of what it means to be human.

Performing Mahler Nine behind closed doors during the pandemic was an experience like no other for Vienna Philharmonic clarinettist Daniel Ottensamer. Franz Welser-Möst’s interpretation, he recalls, highlighted the Austrian folk roots of the second movement’s dance tune. “The music of the last movement is almost dying at the end,” says Daniel. “For me, it is one of the most touching farewells in music history.”

Daniel Ottensamer’s commentary on the Vienna Philharmonic’s performance of Mahler Symphony No. 9 can be heard on the final track.

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