Mahler – for comfort and hope

Hello.

There has been more than enough pontificating about the state of the world which we currently inhabit, so you will be relieved to know that I am not about to bore you with my own opinions, be they political or amateur philosophical.

There’s always a ‘but’, though, isn’t there? ‘But’ mine is a very simple one. Who among us, over these last several weeks, has not spent more time in thought – whether reminiscing on times and loved ones of bygone days, or in contemplation, perhaps particularly, about the youth of today and their futures, whose lives have twice been put on hold; first by prolonged wranglings over Brexit, and now by COVID-19?

I know I have. This is where music can step in and show us its real worth. One of its functions, as Thomas Beecham once said, ‘is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought.’ A few minutes a day (in my case, many) can provide unrivalled solace and a welcome escape from our wandering minds.

In Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, The Resurrection, first performed in 1895, the composer is expressing in music his belief in an afterlife and resurrection. It matters nothing whether or not you share his belief, that is not the point: today I bring you two clips which seem to encapsulate neatly the two reassurances we seek now above all others – comfort and hope.

The second movement, here in full, is a reflection of happier times in the life of the deceased, whose funeral is depicted in the dramatic first. It is delicate and simple; and with a gorgeous tune to boot! It is supremely comforting music, clothed in tenderness, but also has a strong sense of pining and nostalgia. Listen to the way Mahler mingles two melodies between violins and ‘cellos, it’s utterly enchanting. Click on the image –

 

 

And now from comfort to hope: the closing few minutes of the piece. You could scarcely believe this comes from the same symphony. Mahler was determined to have a choir for the final movement, but was more than conscious of having to live up to the success of Beethoven’s 9th just under seventy years before. The words are from Friedrich Klopstock’s poem, The Resurrection, “Rise again, yes, you shall rise again”.

Not that you need to know that, for there have been few passages in all music that effuse such optimism. Conductor Simon Rattle looks to be on the point of an internal combustion. Your belief doesn’t matter. This big, this huge, sound is all about hope and love. Shut the door and turn it up. Your spirits will be raised to unexpected heights.

Click on the image –

 

 

 

 

13 thoughts on “Mahler – for comfort and hope”

  1. I don’t know this symphony, but I am a Catholic and do share the theology. I will listen to the full symphony tonight using headphones and giving it my total concentration. I needed to know about this music today. Thanks.

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    1. I, too, am an RC. There are moments of doubt in this piece, but ultimately its conclusion is not one of judgment, but an outpouring of love. During his lifetime, it was his most popular symphony.
      I hope, from your final comment, that it gives you comfort and reassurance. It is a tremendous statement of an enduring faith – Mahler became a Catholic a couple of years later.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reading this post and listening to the music were my rewards today. I pulled weeds in the garden for an hour, and looking forward to this kept me going. Thank you for picking such marvelous music and guiding our listening.

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  3. Truly beautiful and, apart from slight concern for Simon Rattle, my reply to your last sentence is “and they were, oh how they were!”

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  4. I listened to these excerpts not long after hearing of the death of Fr Bede (Worth Abbey) and they seemed to be so perfect for the moment. Thank you Nick and I never cease to be amazed at the depth of your musical knowledge.

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  5. Thank you very much, Rosemary. I’m sorry to hear that news, but can see how this might have struck a chord in the circumstances.
    And I continue to be very touched by your comments, thank you.

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