It’s hard to conceive of an encore to follow Mahler’s epic Ninth Symphony.  The symphony stands alone with no overture or concerto preceding it. Afterwards, the audience is left in deep silence until the first brave person dares to applaud. 

Until now, there was no appropriate encore to this 100 minute symphony, but last night, at the Teatro Grand Rex in Buenos Aires, Zubin Mehta spoke with the audience about another farewell, the farewell of a son to his father, and then performed Astor Piazzola’s “Adios Nonino” with the Israel Philharmonic strings.  

Piazzola wrote the piece in 1959 upon the death of his father Don Vicente “Nonino” Piazzola.  It was later arranged by his colleague, principal cellist of the Teatro Colon, Jose Bragato.  Since then, Bragato has dedicated his time to collecting and cataloguing Piazzola’s music. Yesterday, with Bragato, well over 90, in the hall, Zubin rehearsed the piece and announced his intention to perform it at the evening concert.

When Mahler was composing the piece, exactly 100 years ago, he probably knew that it would be his last major work.  Heart disease was already limiting his activities. He was also aware that his artistic epoch was ending and a new wave of modernism led by atonal music was on the doorstep.  He had once before conscientiously avoided a “ninth” symphony by writing “Das Lied von der Erde.”  

In the last movement of the “Ninth” the music becomes increasingly fragmented, and finally evaporates into nothingness; one experiences the passing of life.  He quotes his own Kindertotenlieder, “the day is fine on yonder heights…” The last movement is an elegy to his life, his art and the world.  
 Mahler and Piazzola; an amazing combination and an incredible encore to the Ninth.