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The University of Memphis
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Memphis, TN 38152 

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Mahler Symphony No. 2, Resurrection

04/14/2012, 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM

Cannon Center for the Performing Arts map

(Please note: Concert not available at Germantown Performing Arts Centre due to size of orchestra and stage.)

Mei-Ann Chen, conductor
Lawrence Edwards, choral director
Mary Wilson, soprano
Christin-Marie Hill, mezzo-soprano
Memphis Symphony Chorus | Memphis University Singers
RESPIGHI The Pines of Rome – The Pines of the Appian Way
MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, Resurrection


"Die shall I in order to live again. Rise again, yes, rise again." Mahler transports us on a journey through life's pain and struggles, and the intimate and intensely human desire for rebirth. Join Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and soloists in the Resurrection Symphony.

  For more information on the 2011-2012 season, click here.

Extended Program Notes

Mahler Describes His “Resurrection” Symphony

Although Mahler authored several programs for his “Resurrection” Symphony, they are essentially similar in terms of conveying the work’s meaning. The following musical synopsis quotes the program Mahler prepared for a 1901 Dresden performance. References to other programs by the composer are specifically designated.

I. Allegro maestoso
We are standing beside the coffin of a man beloved. (Note: In a letter of March 26, 1896, Mahler informs Max Marschalk: “I have called the first movement Totenfeier, and if you would like to know, I am interring the hero of my D Major Symphony [No. 1, “Titan”], whose life I capture in a pure reflection from a higher vantage point.”) For the last time, his life, his battles, his sufferings and his purpose pass before the mind’s eye. And now, at this solemn and deeply stirring moment, when we are released from the paltry distractions of everyday life, our hearts are gripped by a voice of awe-inspiring solemnity, that we seldom or never hear above the deafening traffic of mundane affairs. What next? it says. What is life—and what is death?

Have we any continuing existence?

Is it all an empty dream, or has this life of ours, and our death, a meaning?
If we are to go on living, we must answer this question. (Note: In the 1896 letter to Marschalk, Mahler concludes: “this answer I give in the last movement.”)
The next three movements are conceived as intermezzi.

II. Andante moderato—
You must have had the experience of attending the funeral of a person dear to you and then, perhaps, on the way back suddenly the picture of a happy hour long, long past, arises in your mind like a ray of sun undimmed by anything—and you can almost forget what has just happened. That is the second movement. (1896 letter to Marschalk)

III. In ruhig fliessender Bewegung (In calm, more flowing motion)—
A spirit of unbelief and negation has taken possession of him. Looking into the turmoil of appearances, he loses together with the clear eyes of childhood the sure foothold that love alone gives. (Note: In a discussion with Nathalie Bauer-Lechner, Mahler described this individual as “destitute and unlucky: To such a person, the world appears as in a concave mirror, distorted and mad.”) He despairs of himself and of God. The world and life become a witch’s brew; disgust of existence in every form strikes him with (an) iron fist and drives him to an outburst of despair.

IV. Urlicht (Primal Light) (Sehr feierlich, aber schlicht) (Very solemn, but simply)—
The moving voice of ingenuous belief sounds in our ears.
“I am from God and will return to God! God will give me a candle to light me to the bliss of eternal life.”

IV. Urlicht
Alto solo
O Röschen rot!
Der Mensch liegt in grösster Not!
Der Mensch liegt in grösster Pein!
Ja lieber möcht’ ich im Himmel sein!
Da kam ich auf einem breiten Weg;
Da kam ein Engelein und wollt’ mich abweisen.
Ach nein! Ich liess mich nicht abweisen!
Ich bin von Gott und will wieder zu Gott!
Der liebe Gott wird mir ein Lichtchen geben,
Wird leuchten mir bis in das ewig selig Leben!

IV. Primal Light
Alto solo
O red rose!
Man lies in greatest need!
Man lies in greatest pain!
Yes, I would rather be in heaven!
Then I came upon a broad road:
There came an angel who wanted to refuse me.
Ah no! I would not be refused!
I am from God and will return to God!
The dear God will give me a small light,
Will light my way unto eternal blessed life!

V. Im Tempo des Scherzo (In Scherzo Tempo)
We are confronted once more by terrifying questions.
A voice is heard crying aloud: The end of all living things is come—the Last Judgment is at hand and the horror of the day of days has come.
The earth quakes, the graves burst open, the dead arise and stream on in endless procession. The great and the little ones of the earth—kings and beggars, righteous and godless—all press on—the cry for mercy and forgiveness strikes fearfully on our ears. The wailing rises higher—our senses desert us, consciousness dies at the approach of the eternal spirit.

The “Great Roll-Call”
is heard—the trumpets of the Apocalypse ring out; in the eerie silence that follows we can just catch the distant, barely audible song of a nightingale, a last tremulous echo of earthly life! A chorus of saints and heavenly beings softly breaks forth:
“Thou shalt arise, surely thou shalt arise.” Then appears the glory of God! A wondrous, soft light penetrates us to the heart—all is holy calm!

And behold—it is no judgment—there are no sinners, no just. None is great, none is small. There is no punishment and no reward.

An overwhelming love lightens our being. We know and are.

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