Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Resurrection”
Iván Fischer’s life is interwoven with the uninhibited, honest music of Mahler. As one of those conductors who best understands his music, in this season Fischer has picked a series of works that lend a crucial role to the human voice. Hungarian audiences will be able to hear Mahler’s grandiose Resurrection symphony, their recording of which won the BFO a Gramophone Award, the Oscar of classical music, in 2007.
“In the life of an orchestra you get one chance a decade to play Mahler’s Second,” says Iván Fischer. In the life of the Festival Orchestra, this moment has come around again. Their 2006 performance left a lasting impression. As the Washington Post wrote at the time, it was “majestic yet intimate, overwhelming yet tender, meticulously planned and brilliantly executed. One of the best recordings ever made of the Resurrection symphony”.
Mahler’s music is overwrought, full of powerful emotions and magnificent contrasts. The composer continuously pushed at the boundaries of the symphony. As he said, “a symphony must be like the world: it must embrace everything,” which is something this ninety-minute opus went a long way towards achieving. The Second is grandiose in its musicality, duration and theme as well as in the sheer number of musicians it employs. Consider the ten trumpets, the ten French horns, seven percussionists, the “largest set of strings possible,” and a mixed choir, all on the stage at the same time.
The composer sets out with the gravity of a funeral procession. He leads the audience towards light and happier reminiscences, only for clattering timpani rolls to tear them away into melancholic brooding about meaninglessness of life. The fourth movement encapsulates yearning for another world, while the fifth fluctuates between hope and utter desolation for more than half an hour.
Following the 1895 première of this symphony, Mahler rushed to his room and collapsed. The audience erupted in thunderous applause while many were weeping.