Five essential works by Mahler

We name the very best pieces of music written by the symphony's great synthesist Mahler

Mahler best works

Symphony No. 2, ‘Resurrection’ 


One of the most dramatic openings of any symphony – baleful scurryings from cellos and basses launching a work of extraordinary contrasts.

Recommended recording:
Bamberg Chorus & Symphony Orchestra/Jonathan Nott
Tudor 7158 (2 discs)

Symphony No. 6, ‘Tragic’

Lean and purposeful, ‘Tragic’ launches with an implacable march and ends with a finale punctuated with three hammer blows of ‘fate’.

Recommended recording:
San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas
San Francisco Symphony 821936-0001-2


Some of Mahler’s most sublime songs are included here, most particularly the twilight atmosphere of ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’.

Recommended recording:
Janet Baker; New Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli
EMI 566 9812

Symphony No. 9

Mahler’s last completed symphony seems to express the complex feelings of someone facing the end of their life, shot through with fear.

Recommended recording:
Philharmonia/Esa-Pekka Salonen
Signum SGCD 188

Das Lied von der Erde

A despairing yet blissful hymn to earthly life, these settings of ancient Chinese poems is one of Mahler’s most powerful song cycles for solo voices and orchestra.


Recommended recording:
Kathleen Ferrier, Julius Patzak; Vienna PO/Bruno Walter
Alto ALC 1120