After the dress rehearsal, Mahler paced back and forth in the greenroom, wringing his hands and sobbing. He was beside himself. In the last movement he had let his ‘hero’ be killed by three violent blows of fate, a sort of Old Testament prophecy of the destruction of humanity by a higher power. In the score he symbolically notated three dull thuds made by a hammer on a wooden box which he had had especially built. But after the premiere he removed the third blow in measure 783. And as a symbol of the last remains of earthly existence he brought in the characteristic sound of cowbells, the last sounds which echo from the valleys and meadows on the highest summits of the world. They were meant to sum up the whole of human experience, from childlike innocence and wonder to fury, despair, and destruction. His Sixth Symphony is the most merciless and uncompromising portrayal of this vision….