Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Gustav Mahler: Resurrection!

And behold, it is no judgment;
there are no sinners, no just….
There is no punishment and no reward.
An overwhelming love illuminates our being.
We know and we are.

 ©2014 Am Ang Zhang

"Rise again, yes, rise again thou wilt! Then the glory of God comes into sight. A wondrous light strikes us to the heart. All is quiet and blissful. Lo and behold: there is no judgment, no sinners, no just men, no great and no small; there is no punishment and no reward. A feeling of overwhelming love fills us with blissful knowledge and illuminates our existence.

From silence, the chorus enters, at first almost inaudibly, singing Klopstock’s resurrection poetry. The solo soprano detaches imperceptibly from the chorus and floats above it. Mahler used only two of Klopstock’s three stanzas, and omitted the concluding ‘Hallelujah!’ to each. The remainder of the Symphony’s text was Mahler’s own, started with ‘O glaube’ (‘Oh believe!’), introduced by the mezzo soloist. The end is a soaring E-flat major hymn, from which ‘an overwhelming love lightens our being. We know and we are.’


Musicologists explained the early rejection of the Second Symphony as a result of Mahler's new harmonies. Never before had these been found in music. He overstepped the boundaries of what was considered "beautiful." Music critics and concertgoers found his music too long, too complicated, too bombastic, too neurotic, overly melancholy, and so on. Leonard Bernstein, who led the Mahler revival of the 1960s, claimed that "There was something much deeper in the rejection of Mahler's music." He suggested that "Mahler's music simply hit too close to home, touched too deeply on people's concerns and their fears about life and death. It simply was too true--telling something too dreadful to hear."

Fortunately, the above elements, which were so strongly rejected by the musical establishment of Mahler's day, are now passionately embraced by new generations of listeners. His genius lies in his unique ability to draw together such wildly contrasting elements as intense post-Wagner/Strauss/Bruckner harmonies, Austrian peasant music, Jewish childhood motifs, children's innocence, and a distressing fascination with death. He moulds all of them into a convincing and compelling musical structure.

Youtube: Simon Rattle

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