MAHLER SYMPHONY NO. 2
Mahler’s glorious, shattering tribute to Beethoven’s Ninth
Gustav Mahler’s gigantic Symphony No. 2 in C minor, the “Resurrection Symphony,” usually fills out a concert on its own. But in this recording with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under its principal conductor Mariss Jansons, the work is introduced by an exquisite – and fitting – choral work, a contemporary (1982) 16-voice arrangement of a song by Mahler, “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” based on a poem by Friedrich Rückert and originally composed for voice and orchestra in 1901. In this setting, the eminent choral conductor Clytus Gottwald lets the piece “sparkle, gleam and glow in transcendental ecstasy. This is what the heavenly legions sing when they are not singing Mozart” (Wolfgang Stähr in the program notes).
“My Second Symphony is directly connected to the First!” wrote Gustav Mahler in 1896. This statement applies both to chronology and musical contents. The First Symphony was not even completed when Mahler, then Kapellmeister at the Leipzig Theater, began to envision the composition of a new five-movement symphonic work in 1887. He began working on the first movement that same year and spent altogether eight years on this instrumentally and vocally mighty work, which was premiered under his direction in Berlin on 13 December 1895.
The nickname “Resurrection Symphony” is derived from the closing chorus of the last movement, in which Mahler set to music verses from Klopstock’s “Messias.” The length of the performance as well as the exceptionally large musical scoring (full orchestra, offstage band, organ, bells, large chorus and two female vocal soloists) make it a challenge to perform and are responsible for the fact that the work is rarely heard in the concert hall. Yet the Second Symphony is a central work in Mahler’s oeuvre, a work whose Munich performance of 1900 brought him the long hoped-for recognition as composer.
The soloists in our recording are soprano Anja Harteros, whose exciting voice and charismatic stage presence have won her the nickname “Stradivari among singers,” and mezzosoprano Bernarda Fink, many of whose recordings have won a Diapason d’Or or a Grammy Award.