Mahler 6th in A minor, "Tragic"

This coming weekend, from the 15th to the 17th of July, the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) under the baton of Maestro Kees Bakels will be performing Mahler's 6th symphony. The maestro will conduct this symphony as his final performance after many years being the Music Director of the MPO, so I am looking forward to a very intense musical experience, especially so with him conducting this very intense symphony.

Mahler composed this symphony (1903-1904) during what was seemingly the happiest time in his life. He just got married in 1902 and two daughters were bestowed on him, one in 1902 and another in 1904. His career is taking on new heights.

Why would someone who is enjoying so much happiness compose one of the darkest and most tragic piece of music in classical music history? Perhaps he has premonition, or genuis. Or perhaps that piece of music just had to come out of him. I remember reading him saying that he is like an agent. Some higher powers speak through him and he is merely their instrument.

There are also some controversies re this symphony as well, particularly the order of the two inner movements which is still subject to many scholarly debates. I have recently received a copy of the lastest publication from the International Gustav Mahler Society in Vienna and there is an article, written at length, to debate this issue.

More on the gossip level, the original score of the 6th has 3 hammerblows in the finale. However, Mahler later revised the score because as per speculations which Mahler denied, the 3 hammerblows is actually Mahler's premonition of his own fate, the first hammerblow being the death of one of his daughter, then his “resignation” from the State Opera and the final blow being the dignosis of his then fatal heart infection.

Here is an essay in which you can read more about this work, and also Mahler's life if you follow on the links provided in the article. This article was written by the reknown Mahler scholar, Prof. Henry -Louis de La Grange.

Prof. de La Grange's essay

Benjamin Zander, the great Mahlerian conductor, has recorded the 6th symphony, complete with a third CD where he discusses in detail the symphony. This is really a great recording and the discussion/lecture CD is really great as well. It is available very inexpensively via Amazon, or if you are living in KL, I have seen several copies at Tower Records.

And yes, the people that manages the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra at the Dewan Philharmonic, has contacted me via a contact from a fellow music fan and has generously extended their offer for Mahler fans to purchase tickets at 50% discount. Here's an excerpt from her e-mail:

“We are delighted to know that you will be coming to these concerts. We would like to offer you a 50% discount( Premium and A Reserve) when you invite your friends and loved ones to these concerts. Purchase must be made by you at our Box Office or you may call 03-2051 7007. Alternatively, you can purchase tickets via online at

Hence, to create further awareness we are keen to work with you to find ways of sharing the enthusiasm you have for Mahler and his compositions to a wider audience. We welcome your suggestions on how we can work together to further enhance the appeal of these concerts. We would appreciate your feedback at your earliest convenience.”

If you are interested, please do quote this and that the offer was extended by Cik Kertini. If necessary, mention that you are from the Malaysian Mahlerites and if you run into trouble, do try to get to speak to Cik Kertini and quote my name. Should be ok if you do that.

Hope to see you there! I will be attending the Saturday evening concert. Will probably go for the Sunday one as well.

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