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There is a superstition within classical music, dating back hundreds of years, known as the curse of the ninth. The superstition states that a composer’s ninth symphony is destined to be their last, with a number of composers dying either while writing their ninth, after completion, or before finishing a tenth. Composers who have fallen prey to the curse include Schubert, Dvořák, Bruckner, and most famously, Beethoven – who after completing his ninth, Ode to Joy, was kissed by the curse before writing a tenth.

Gustav Mahler, however, having seen his contemporaries lives taken too soon refused to title his ninth symphony by number, instead choosing to title it, Das Lied von der Erde(“The Song of the Earth”). His attempt to dodge the curse was successful, or so it seemed, when his tenth symphony, which he titled his ninth, was complete.

But his victory was short-lived.

During the writing process for what would have been his eleventh symphonic work, but titled his tenth, the curse returned. It was in 1911, just two short years after his apparent victory that he died, with the curse taking another victim.

Listen now to the piece that almost broke the curse.

Mahler 9

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