When Gustav Mahler died in 1911, not quite 51 years old, he left two works complete but unperformed: the symphonic song-cycle Das Lied von der Erde (‘The Song of the Earth’) and the purely orchestral Ninth Symphony. When these works were heard for the first time, the year following Mahler’s death, listeners were struck by their intense preoccupation with mortality – clear enough in the texts of Das Lied von der Erde, and unmistakable in the expressive tone of the Ninth Symphony. Alban Berg, who adored Mahler, described the first movement as ‘the expression of an exceptional fondness for this earth, the longing to live in peace on it, to enjoy nature to its depths – before death comes. For he comes irresistibly. The whole movement is permeated with premonitions of death’.