Mahler Symphony No 2

Mahler Symphony No 2

The subtitle to Mahler’s second symphony is ‘Resurrection’.
The precise meaning of this subtitle is hotly debated, but what is absolutely clear is that the symphony has a life changing and transformative power.

The New York Philharmonic Orchestra played it on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 as the piece of music best able to symbolise the tragedy of the Twin Towers and the city’s subsequent renaissance.

On a completely different level, a young financial journalist named Gilbert Kaplan, with no significant musical education, was so overwhelmed by a performance of the symphony that he decided he must learn to conduct it. In 1982 he hired Avery Fisher Hall in New York and performed the work with the American Symphony Orchestra. He went on to record it with the London Symphony and has since performed it with orchestras all over the world. Such is the inspirational and motivational power of Mahler’s Second Symphony.

Valery Gergiev’s performance with the London Symphony is a rather different proposition. Gergiev is not a conductor to be fazed by a musical challenge, but even he has admitted that he was uncertain before the first performance in London in April 2008. ‘The drama, the emotion, it is so intense, I really wondered whether I could understand it and communicate it to the orchestra’. The performance on the 20th of April was enthusiastically applauded but Gergiev was not satisfied. ‘I felt it was too contained, I was trying too hard’. His solution was to empty his mind of all pre-conceptions and allow the music to be his inspiration.

Anyone who attended the performance on the night of April 21st in London’s Barbican Hall will understand the real meaning of ‘Resurrection’ as applied to the Second Symphony. There have been few more electrifying musical events in the Barbican. Listen to the recording and judge for yourself.

James Mallinson, LSO Live Producer

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