With Mahler specialist Semyon Bychkov returning to the podium of the Orchestre de Paris, which he directed from 1989 to 1998, Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony unfolds its meditation on mortality and hope for life after death.
Symphony No.2, ‘Resurrection’, is a vast eschatological poem demonstrating Mahler’s incredible ability to project his metaphysical angst into dramatic musical edifices. The initial movement, a reuse of a previous Totenfeier (‘funeral ceremony’), lays out the underlying theme: the human condition, no less, with its terrible mortality and the derisory feeling of life. With the sudden entrance of the Dies Irae, this tumultuous, sinister movement gives way to a happy Andante, in the rustic spirit of a ländler. But the tumult returns in the form of a diabolical rondo, for which Mahler uses the ironic, grating version of a lied from the Knaben Wunderhorn telling of Saint Anthony of Padua preaching to the fish. With the entrance of the soloists and the choir, the imposing shadow of Beethoven burst in, preceded by Urlicht, a poignant vocal appeal to ‘primal light'.