What is life? What is death? Why are we here?
When he composed his Second Symphony in the early 1890s, Gustav Mahler wrestled with the Big Questions. And appropriately enough, it's a Big Piece of Music. 80, sometimes 90 minutes long, it's an epic musical exploration of (not to put too fine a point on it) the meaning of life. The first movement alone is about 25 minutes of intensely compelling music. So thought-provoking, Mahler asks the conductor to step off the podium for a 5-minute pause before the piece continues. (Will Sir Simon Rattle take that break on Saturday night? We'll see!) Over the next hour, we have a sweet Austrian waltz, some Jewish folk music, a musical "cry of despair" at the arrival of death, apparently out of nowhere two solo women's voices sing about primeval light and faith. A full choir appears nearly an hour into the piece, singing about life after death, about a glorious resurrection.
Structurally, it's a mess. But what a sublime, dazzling mess! It's an emotionally overwhelming piece, utterly exhausting and deeply satisfying.
Mahler himself led the premiere in 1895, a concert performance by... the Berlin Philharmonic. So how sweet to hear the Berlin Philharmonic play it live in concert at Carnegie Hall? Join us on Wednesday, March 20 at 7 p.m. I'll chat with conductor Simon Rattle before and after the performance, and we'll immerse ourselves in Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony, his Symphony No. 2.
ProgramStern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Sir Simon Rattle, music director and conductor
Camilla Tilling, soprano
Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano
Westminster Symphonic Choir / Joe Miller, conductor
HUGO WOLF: "Elfenlied"
HUGO WOLF: "Der Feuerreiter"
HUGO WOLF: "Fruhlingschor" from Manuel Venegas
GUSTAV MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C minor, "Resurrection"