But in this week's concerts, Donald Runnicles opens with Arvo Pärt's Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten and will perform the two works without a break.
"It is possible to put a listener in a certain frame of mind by preparing them with another work," he says.
Benjamin Britten was a great fan of Mahler's music.
"They shared a need for transparency, exactness and clarity," says Runnicles.
"The Cantus is quintessentially Pärt, and he in turn thought very highly of Britten as a man and a composer.
Britten's pacifism led him to be an outcast, a non-belonger, and that certainly relates to Mahler.
The first note of the Cantus is a bell on A" - the same note on which Mahler's symphony whispers into being - "so the meditation, the contemplation, the seeds for that resounding final silence, all that will begin long before the first note of the symphony has even sounded."