Five essential works by Mahler

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

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Symphony No. 2, ‘Resurrection’ 

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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 

Rückert-Lieder

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.

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