Despite the wayfarer's despondent themes, the symphony ultimately is a journey of triumph. It starts with the nothing less than the dawn of creation, depicted by an amorphous seven-octave A, the note to which orchestras tune. It is the tuning of the universe, ... It's as if at the beginning of the symphony God turns up the volume just a tiny bit.
If we didn't know that Mahler faced imminent death, we would still know that the music could not have been written except by one who is facing the ultimate test. But the silence at the end is not the silence of death itself, or ultimate withdrawal, but of acceptance - a peace that passes all understanding.