The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra performs Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 9, conducted by Bernard Haitink. With the Ninth, his last completed Symphony, Mahler said farewell to life.
With his Symphony No. 9, Gustav Mahler not only took his leave from older forms of music, the piece also represents a farewell to life. Willem Mengelberg, who was the chief conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra from 1895 until 1945, stated that it was “a farewell to everybody whom he had loved and to the world. And to his art, his life, his music.” Mahler himself wrote the words “O Jugendzeit! Entschwundene! O Liebe! Verwehte!” in his final draft of the Ninth Symphony.
Bernard Haitink first conducted the Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1956. He was the orchestra’s chief conductor from 1961-88, and was named honorary conductor in 1999. From 1977 to 1987, Haitink received international acclaim for his interpretations of Mahler in the Eurovision Christmas Matinees. Many listeners still remember the last of these Matinees, with a poignant performance of the Ninth Symphony – shortly before Haitink’s retiring as chief conductor.