Conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra performs Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, also known as the “Resurrection Symphony” at the BBC Proms 2011. It was written between 1888 and 1894, and first performed in 1895. Soloists: Swedish soprano Miah Persson and the Swedish contralto/mezzo-soprano Anna Larsson. Chorus: National Youth Choirs of Great Britain. A brilliant interpretation of one of Mahler’s most popular and successful works. Enjoy!

Conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra performs Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, also known as the “Resurrection Symphony” at the BBC Proms 2011. It was written between 1888 and 1894, and first performed in 1895. Soloists: Swedish soprano Miah Persson and the Swedish contralto/mezzo-soprano Anna Larsson. Chorus: National Youth Choirs of Great Britain.

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, commonly known as the “Resurrection” Symphony, stands as a monumental work in the orchestral repertoire, embodying the composer’s profound exploration of life, death, and the transcendental. Mahler composed this symphony over several years, with its completion in 1894, marking a significant development in his symphonic output. The work is distinguished not only by its ambitious scale but also by its deep philosophical themes and innovative use of the orchestra and voices.

The “Resurrection” Symphony is a journey through the questions of existence and the afterlife, reflecting Mahler’s personal contemplations and his complex relationship with spirituality and redemption. Mahler’s inspiration for the symphony is multifaceted, drawing from his own experiences, literature, and the broader cultural context of fin-de-siècle Europe, where there was a heightened interest in themes of death, rebirth, and the afterlife. The symphony’s narrative arc, from darkness to light, mirrors Mahler’s own spiritual and emotional quest.

Mahler’s use of a large orchestra and chorus is noteworthy, as it pushes the boundaries of symphonic form and the expressive capabilities of these ensembles. The inclusion of vocal elements, notably in the final movements, with texts drawn from Friedrich Klopstock’s poem “Die Auferstehung” (The Resurrection) and Mahler’s own additions, adds a dramatic and personal dimension to the work. This blend of orchestral and vocal music was innovative for its time and contributes to the symphony’s lasting impact.

The “Resurrection” Symphony is not just a musical work but a philosophical statement, exploring themes of despair, hope, and salvation. Mahler’s vision for the symphony was to create a work that transcended the personal to address universal questions of human existence. This ambition is reflected in the symphony’s scale and scope, as well as in its emotional depth and complexity.

The premiere of the “Resurrection” Symphony was a significant event, marking Mahler’s growing reputation as a composer. Despite mixed initial reactions, the symphony has since become one of Mahler’s most beloved and frequently performed works. Its powerful message of renewal and redemption resonates with audiences worldwide, making it a cornerstone of the symphonic literature.

The “Resurrection” Symphony’s influence extends beyond the concert hall, contributing to the cultural and philosophical discourse of its time. It reflects the transition from the Romantic to the modern era, embodying the existential concerns and aspirations of a changing world. Mahler’s mastery in integrating profound emotional and intellectual themes with groundbreaking musical innovation makes the “Resurrection” Symphony a seminal work that continues to inspire and move listeners to this day.


1. Allegro maestoso

The first movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection,” sets the stage for the symphony’s profound exploration of life, death, and rebirth with dramatic intensity and emotional depth. This movement, often described as a funeral march, encapsulates a wide range of emotions and themes that resonate throughout the entire symphony. It is characterized by its monumental structure, complex orchestration, and the deep philosophical underpinnings that are a hallmark of Mahler’s work.

Opening with a somber and powerful gesture, the movement immediately plunges the listener into a world of introspection and solemnity. Mahler utilizes the full resources of the orchestra to create a rich tapestry of sounds and textures, from the dark, brooding tones of the lower strings to the piercing cries of the brass. This orchestral palette allows Mahler to explore the movement’s thematic material with great depth and nuance.

The structure of the first movement is traditionally symphonic, adhering to a modified sonata form that Mahler manipulates to serve his expressive needs. Within this framework, Mahler juxtaposes contrasting themes and motifs, creating a dynamic and evolving musical narrative. The themes themselves are imbued with symbolism, reflecting the movement’s underlying themes of mortality and the existential struggle between despair and hope.

Mahler’s orchestration in this movement is notable for its complexity and ingenuity. He employs a wide range of instrumental colors and techniques to evoke a profound emotional response. The use of dynamics, from the most delicate pianissimos to the most forceful fortissimos, plays a crucial role in shaping the movement’s dramatic arc. Mahler’s skillful orchestration enhances the emotional intensity of the music, drawing the listener deeper into the symphony’s thematic exploration.

The first movement also sets the tone for the symphony’s exploration of the afterlife and resurrection. Mahler’s music here is not merely descriptive; it is deeply introspective, inviting the listener to contemplate the mysteries of life and death. The movement’s conclusion, marked by a sense of unresolved tension, leaves these existential questions hanging in the air, setting the stage for the subsequent movements to continue the symphony’s narrative journey.

2. Andante moderato

The second movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection,” offers a striking contrast to the intense, existential drama of the first movement. This movement is generally lighter in mood and texture, reflecting a more nostalgic and somewhat idyllic character. Mahler intended this movement to serve as a moment of respite and reflection, providing a lyrical interlude that reminisces on the joys and simplicity of the past.

Structured as an Andante moderato, the second movement is based on a Ländler, a traditional Austrian and German folk dance that Mahler frequently evoked in his symphonies to conjure images of the countryside and simpler times. The movement evokes a sense of peacefulness and bucolic beauty, with melodies that are graceful and flowing, often imbued with a sense of longing or tender melancholy. This pastoral character is underscored by the delicate orchestration, which features a prominent role for the strings, woodwinds, and horns, creating a warm and inviting sound palette.

Despite its overall gentle character, the second movement is not without its moments of complexity and emotional depth. Mahler subtly weaves in variations and developments of the dance themes, exploring different textures and harmonies that add layers of nuance to the music. These moments of variation serve to deepen the nostalgic quality of the movement, suggesting not just a reminiscence of the past but also an awareness of its irretrievable nature.

The structure of the movement is relatively straightforward, with the dance themes presented and then varied upon, but Mahler’s genius lies in his ability to imbue this simplicity with profound emotional weight. The movement transitions smoothly between different moods, from the gently lilting to the more introspective and somber, reflecting the complexity of human memory and emotion.

In the context of the symphony as a whole, the second movement acts as a bridge, providing a moment of calm and reflection between the turbulent first movement and the more dramatic and existential explorations to come. It reminds the listener of the beauty and simplicity that can be found in life, serving as a counterpoint to the symphony’s overarching themes of death and resurrection.

3. In ruhig fließender Bewegung

The third movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection,” marks a return to the more introspective and complex emotional landscape that characterizes much of the symphony. This movement, based on Mahler’s own song “Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt” from the collection “Des Knaben Wunderhorn,” presents a stark contrast to the pastoral serenity of the second movement. It delves into themes of existential questioning and the absurdity of life, with a more ironic and sardonic tone than the movements that precede and follow it.

Musically, the third movement is structured as a scherzo, a choice that traditionally implies a lighter, more playful character. However, Mahler subverts this expectation, using the scherzo form to explore a darker, more introspective realm. The movement opens with a haunting melody in the minor key, immediately setting a mood of unease and introspection. The music is characterized by its rhythmic complexity and the striking use of orchestral color to evoke a sense of the surreal and the grotesque.

The song upon which the movement is based tells the story of Saint Anthony of Padua preaching to the fish, who listen attentively but then return to their lives, unchanged by his words. This story serves as an allegory for the futility of the preacher’s efforts and, by extension, the human condition’s absurdity. Mahler’s music captures this sense of futility and irony, with moments of lyrical beauty juxtaposed against dissonant, angular passages that suggest a world out of joint.

Throughout the movement, Mahler employs a wide range of orchestral techniques to bring this vivid imagery to life. The use of contrapuntal textures, abrupt changes in dynamics, and the incorporation of klezmer-like motifs all contribute to the movement’s unique character. These elements create a musical landscape that is at once eerie, whimsical, and deeply poignant, reflecting the complexity of human emotion and the existential themes that pervade the symphony.

The third movement serves as a critical pivot point in the symphony’s narrative structure, bridging the reflective nostalgia of the second movement and the profound spiritual journey of the final movements. It challenges the listener to confront the absurdity of life, inviting a deeper contemplation of the themes of death and resurrection that lie at the heart of the symphony.

4. Urlicht

The fourth movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection,” represents a profound shift in mood and texture from the movements that precede it, serving as a moment of introspective calm before the symphony’s climactic finale. This movement is relatively short and features a solo alto voice, introducing a text from “Des Knaben Wunderhorn,” a collection of German folk poems that Mahler frequently turned to for inspiration. The text chosen for this movement is “Urlicht” (Primeval Light), a poem imbued with deep spiritual longing and a yearning for redemption and eternal peace.

“Urlicht” stands as a meditative interlude, offering a stark contrast to the complexity and turbulence of the third movement. The music is characterized by its simplicity and directness, with the solo voice accompanied by a restrained orchestral arrangement that emphasizes the warmth of the strings and the gentle coloration of the woodwinds and brass. This sparseness allows the poignant beauty of the melody and the profundity of the text to take center stage, creating a moment of transcendent calm that speaks directly to the listener’s soul.

The text of “Urlicht” expresses a profound spiritual longing, a desire to transcend earthly suffering and to be embraced by divine light. The movement’s opening lines, sung by the alto, evoke a sense of innocence and purity, while the music itself, with its modal harmonies and simple, folk-like melody, reinforces this sense of timelessness and universality. As the movement progresses, the music and text explore themes of faith, redemption, and the human soul’s eternal journey, culminating in a powerful plea for release from earthly pain and entry into heavenly peace.

Mahler’s setting of “Urlicht” is notable for its emotional depth and the intimate connection it establishes between the soloist and the orchestra. The dynamic range is carefully controlled, building gradually to moments of intense longing before returning to a state of serene acceptance. This dynamic interplay underscores the text’s spiritual journey, from despair to hope, from darkness to light.

In the context of the symphony as a whole, the fourth movement serves as a crucial emotional and thematic bridge. It shifts the focus inward, preparing the listener for the resurrection theme’s full exploration in the final movement. By juxtaposing the individual soul’s intimate plea with the cosmic scale of the symphony’s conclusion, Mahler sets the stage for a resolution that is both personal and universal.


O Röschen rot!
Der Mensch liegt in größter Not!
Der Mensch liegt in größter Pein!
Je lieber möcht’ ich im Himmel sein.
Da kam ich auf einen 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!

O little red rose!
Man lies in greatest need!
Man lies in greatest pain!
How I would rather be in heaven.
There came I upon a broad path
when came a little angel and wanted to turn me away.
Oh no! I would not let myself be turned away!
I am from God and shall return to God!
The loving God will grant me a little light,
Which will light me into that eternal blissful life!

5. Im Tempo des Scherzos

The fifth and final movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection,” is a monumental conclusion to a profound musical and philosophical journey. This movement encapsulates the symphony’s overarching themes of death, resurrection, and redemption, offering a powerful and transcendent resolution to the existential questions posed in the earlier movements. It is in this movement that Mahler fully realizes his vision of a symphonic work that goes beyond mere music to engage with the deepest spiritual and metaphysical concerns.

Spanning more than half an hour in many performances, the fifth movement is vast in scale and ambition. It begins with a dramatic outburst, immediately signaling a shift in intensity and scope from the preceding movements. This is followed by a series of episodes that explore a range of emotions and themes, from despair and fear to hope and awe, leading up to the final, triumphant chorale.

One of the most striking features of this movement is Mahler’s use of the human voice, integrating the chorus and soloists to convey the text’s narrative and emotional depth. The texts, drawn from Friedrich Klopstock’s poem “Die Auferstehung” (The Resurrection), with significant additions by Mahler himself, express the movement’s central themes of rebirth and eternal life. The incorporation of vocal elements allows Mahler to achieve a level of expressivity and narrative clarity that is unparalleled in the rest of the symphony.

The orchestration in the fifth movement is rich and varied, with Mahler employing a vast array of instruments to create a complex sonic tapestry. The movement features some of Mahler’s most innovative and effective orchestral writing, including the use of off-stage brass to create spatial effects, and the extensive use of percussion to heighten the drama and intensity of the music.

As the movement progresses, the music builds toward the final, climactic chorale, “Auferstehen” (Resurrect), in which the chorus and soloists come together to deliver a message of hope and faith in the face of death. This section is characterized by its soaring melodies, lush harmonies, and profound sense of spiritual transcendence. The final moments of the symphony, with the full forces of the orchestra, chorus, and soloists united, create an overwhelming sense of uplift and renewal, bringing the symphony to a triumphant and emotionally charged conclusion.

The fifth movement of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony is a masterpiece of symphonic writing, demonstrating the composer’s ability to fuse musical and philosophical ideas into a coherent and powerful whole. Through its exploration of themes of death and rebirth, the movement offers a message of hope and redemption that resonates with listeners long after the music has ended. It stands as a testament to Mahler’s genius and his enduring legacy as one of the greatest symphonists of all time.


Aufersteh’n, ja aufersteh’n
Wirst du, Mein Staub,
Nach kurzer Ruh’!
Unsterblich Leben! Unsterblich Leben
wird der dich rief dir geben!
Wieder aufzublüh’n wirst du gesät!
Der Herr der Ernte geht
und sammelt Garben
uns ein, die starben!
— Friedrich Klopstock

O glaube, mein Herz, o glaube:
Es geht dir nichts verloren!
Dein ist, ja dein, was du gesehnt!
Dein, was du geliebt,
Was du gestritten!
O glaube
Du wardst nicht umsonst geboren!
Hast nicht umsonst gelebt, gelitten!
Was entstanden ist
Das muß vergehen!
Was vergangen, auferstehen!
Hör’ auf zu beben!
Bereite dich zu leben!
O Schmerz! Du Alldurchdringer!
Dir bin ich entrungen!
O Tod! Du Allbezwinger!
Nun bist du bezwungen!
Mit Flügeln, die ich mir errungen,
In heißem Liebesstreben,
Werd’ich entschweben
Zum Licht, zu dem kein Aug’ gedrungen!
Sterben werd’ ich, um zu leben!
Aufersteh’n, ja aufersteh’n
wirst du, mein Herz, in einem Nu!
Was du geschlagen
zu Gott wird es dich tragen!
— Gustav Mahler

Rise again, yes, rise again,
Will you My dust,
After a brief rest!
Immortal life! Immortal life
Will He who called you, give you?
To bloom again were you sown!
The Lord of the harvest goes
And gathers in, like sheaves,
Us together, who died.
— Friedrich Klopstock

O believe, my heart, O believe:
Nothing to you is lost!
Yours is, yes yours, is what you desired
Yours, what you have loved
What you have fought for!
O believe,
You were not born for nothing!
Have not for nothing, lived, suffered!
What was created
Must perish,
What perished, rise again!
Cease from trembling!
Prepare yourself to live!
O Pain, You piercer of all things,
From you, I have been wrested!
O Death, You masterer of all things,
Now, are you conquered?

With wings that I have won for myself,
In love’s fierce striving,
I shall soar upwards
To the light which no eye has penetrated!
Die shall I in order to live.
Rise again, yes, rise again,
Will you, my heart, in an instant!
That for which you suffered,
To God will it lead you!
— Gustav Mahler


M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, a former road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. This website's all income goes directly to our furry friends. Please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can help more animals!

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