A particular dark symphony in for the composer dark times. His daughter just died, and he found out he was suffering from an incurable heart condition. Written in 1904 and premiered in 1908, it went through a host of transitions, before being conducted by the master himself in Prague.
There are a few passages that are referred to as Nightmusic. They evoke an atmosphere of Rembrandt’s painting the Nightwatch, or nightmares (not the same passage). This gloomy atmosphere has given the symphony it’s name: Song of the night.
Haitink got into the tradition of Mahler performances and the recording is really beautiful. The second performance of the work was in The Hague, with the Concertgebouw orchestra, the very same as on this record.
The basement of the building itself holds a library of scores that were used by the orchestra. They still have the scores with handwritten notes from previous performances, and I think they also have the ones that were used in Mahler’s time.