Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911)
Symphony No. 2 in C minor, ‘Resurrection Symphony’ (1888 – 94)
(01:45) I. Allegro maestoso. Mit durchaus ernstem und feierlichem Ausdruck
(26:12) II. Andante comodo. Sehr gemächlich. Nie eilen
(37:06) III. In ruhig fließender Bewegung
(47:47) IV. ‘Urlicht’ – Sehr feierlich aber schlicht. Nicht schleppen
(53:06) V. ‘Aufersteh’n’ – Im Tempo des Scherzos. Wild herausfahrend – Wieder zurückhaltend – Langsam. Misterioso
Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor, composed between 1888 and 1894, was met with much criticism during his lifetime – but also served to establish Mahler’s reputation as a revolutionary. Today, his second symphony ranks among the most important symphonies ever composed. Its final movement – featuring as it does a mixed choir, and soprano and alto soloists – sees Mahler’s Second Symphony often being compared to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
In his Symphony No. 2, Mahler explores the concept of resurrection, the evocation of a life after death; a theme Mahler touched upon time and again. The piece’s popular title – ‘Resurrection Symphony’ – does not originate with the composer himself, however.
The structure of the five-movement symphony is unusual – the monumental opening movement, which Mahler named Totenfeier (Funeral Rites), finds its counterbalance in the equally monumental final movement; a symphonic cantata based on Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock’s poem Die Auferstehung (The Resurrection), which Mahler adapted and extended. The three intervening movements could not be more contrasting, with the second movement being a very simple, leisurely Ländler.
The third movement, by turns, is a sharp and mocking scherzo, with gestures towards Jewish folklore. For the musical basis of the third movement, Mahler takes an instrumental version of the recently-composed song Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt. The text had be lifted from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, a collection of poems published by Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim in 1805 and 1808. Finally, in the fourth symphonic movement, a poem from Des Knaben Wunderhorn is again used as a song text. Urlicht is an orchestral song for alto solo. In its chorale-like solemnity, it appears as the perfect introduction to the grand final movement – which celebrates the resurrection from the dead.
Mahler’s second symphony brings the Beethovenfest Bonn 2021 to a mighty close; the grandest music culminating in a vision of eternal life.
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