Sunday Casual Connections Delivers Mahler’s Second In-Depth with “Renewal and Redemption”
For those who prefer a matinee performance, Pacific Symphony’s Sunday Casual Connections, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, revisits Maher’s 90-minute magnum opus, his Second Symphony, with “Renewal and Redemption” on Sunday, June 11, at 3 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Mahler’s symphony is such a monumental work on such a grand scale that patrons may need to experience it twice (evening performances take place June 8-10)! Reminiscent of Beethoven’s Ninth—Mahler’s symphony culminates in an exhilarating chorus that sings of man’s highest hopes and heavenly visions—making it the perfect vehicle for world-class soloists Mary Wilson, soprano, Margaret Lattimore, mezzo-soprano, and the extraordinary Pacific Chorale! The work is guaranteed to take the audience on an incredible journey, from death and dissolution to renewal and redemption! Tickets are $25-$98. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call (714) 755-5799 or CLICK HERE.
Mahler’s Second Symphony did not come easily to the composer, who suffered from writer’s block, and while begun in 1888, it was not completed until 1894. But along the way, he heard a setting of Klopstock’s “Resurrection Ode” at the funeral of the conductor Hans von Bülow, which helped him finish his audacious five-movement piece of concert-hall theater. Part choral symphony, part oratorio, it plunged into the monumental question of immortality in the most spectacular way. Using immense forces, Mahler ended up dramatizing in music mankind’s struggle for eternal salvation.
As he wrestled with his Second, Mahler pondered: “What was the purpose of struggling through life whilst alive? After death would any meaning for life be revealed? Was there salvation or damnation awaiting?”
The opening of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 was completed in 1888 as “Totenfeier” (Funeral Rites), a stormy symphonic poem to send the hero of Mahler’s First Symphony to his grave amid torment over the meaning of his life. The first movement, Allegro maestoso, is an anguished cry at the universe, as Mahler begins his search for understanding and meaning. The composer originally wrote the first movement as a stand-alone piece, and only added movements five years after he wrote the first.
The middle movements waited until the summer of 1893 and reflected his fascination with the same medieval folk poetry that provided texts for most of his songs. The second movement, Andante moderato, is a nostalgic, bittersweet look back at happier times. The third, “In quietly flowing motion” churns along mechanically, as Mahler ruminates on the meaningless nature of life. The fourth movement, “Urlicht” (Primal Light), is a song in response to the despairing thoughts, and expresses hope that life isn’t empty and pointless, but full of beauty and meaning. The dramatic final movement, “In the speed of the scherzo” is an expression of hope and optimism—and while expressed in religious terms, it somehow manages to transcend into something more universal. It’s here where some of the most powerful and life-affirming climaxes are heard.
All of the Mahler concerts are in tribute to John Alexander, in his last performance with the Symphony as artistic director of Pacific Chorale. Maestro St.Clair says: “My 27-year collaboration with John, both as colleague and friend, has been most rewarding. I have been deeply blessed to have his confidence and friendship during all these years together. Most of the major recording projects and many of the formative moments in the life of Pacific Symphony have involved and have been partnered with John and Pacific Chorale. I’m so glad we will have this amazing experience to share together and with so many others."