The Question of the Ninth


extract of Mahler’s draft Tenth with personal notes

“It seems that the Ninth is a limit. He who wants to go beyond it must pass away. It seems as if something might be imparted to us in the Tenth which we ought not yet to know, for which we are not ready. Those who have written a Ninth stood too close to the hereafter.”

Just because Mahler died while writing his 10th symphony doesn’t mean anything to me, I try not to pick up more superstitions than the ones already grafted into my subconscious. And after all, counting/numbering musical works is a fraught business. Nonetheless I like Schoenberg’s famous line (Schoenberg declined to complete the work). I think writers (of books) often seem less than ready to write their topic or style and we can imagine we all have an invisible fence – but I figure Schoenberg included readers/listeners at that dangerous barrier. Provoking. Thanks to Classic FM for an illuminating session.