Listening Guide – Symphony No. 2 Intro


Mahler wrote elaborate programs for this Symphony long after he had finished it. These programs are posted on our website. But the consistency of their scenarios and of the general tenor of their philosophical viewpoint indicates that they do not represent a revisionist afterthought unrelated to what the composer had in mind when he wrote the work, Mahler’s profoundly spiritual nature pervades all of these programs and was certainly the inspiration for this massive Choral Symphony. Yet Mahler never truly embraced any organized religion as such his conversion from Judaism to Catholicism was basically a practical move necessary to further his career. Although his spiritualism was probably sourced in Judeo-Christian morality, his true religion, as he himself said, was music.

As Lagrangian points out, Mahler’s vision of judgment day as expressed in these programs differs greatly from the Christian viewpoint, in its Nietzschean renunciation of moralistic dualism, and eternal condemnation. Instead, Mahler offers one of the most poignant and moving statements of benevolent humanism, ever set to music.

Before putting the finishing touches on his First Symphony, Mahler had already realized that the victory he sought to achieve in the finale, the triumph of life over death, did not completely satisfy him. Had he found meaning in the suffering of humanity, or is the outcome of life struggles without purpose or meaning? Derek Cooke identifies the nature of Mahler’s dilemma, he said, in the First Symphony, the universal implications of the funeral march are evidently swept aside and ignored in the finale, through an affirmation of youthful vitality and confidence. But in the second Symphony, these implications are caught up from a higher standpoint that is confronted on the metaphysical plane and resolved by an act of religious faith.

Mahler suggested many times that the second Symphony was the spiritual successor to the first reference in his program notes for the Second Symphony to the hero of the first reveals not only a symbolic and conceptual nexus between these two symphonies but a personal one. Envisioning himself as the hero of his own life, Mahler struggled throughout his life with the same basic metaphysical issues he presents in the Second Symphony. It is doubtful whether he ever achieved a fully satisfying resolution.

In each symphonic statement, Mahler engages the problem from a different perspective, and the development of his overall dramatics and fond conception parallels the evolution of his treatment of fundamental philosophical and spiritual issues.

Theodore Reich finds in Mahler’s psyche an obsession with death and the meaninglessness of earthly life that seemed to him a natural if nihilistic response not only to the injustice of human suffering but also to his own prevails that plagued him throughout his life.

In Mahler’s music, he rarely succumbs to an inescapably tragic viewpoint, Instead, like a true romantic, he seeks to overcome both the anger of his accusations against an apparently pillarless deity and the torments of his personal struggles by seeing himself as the hero who conquers both life and death, it is the stuff of which both heroic legend and religious spiritualism are made.

Few composers have revealed their own spiritual yearnings in their art, with such depth and dramatic power. Mahler’s intensely subjective manner of expression, which seems to evoke a sense of being alone in the world, and yet responsible for trying to overcome the suffering that must be borne in it has an existential ring, one sense in the Second Symphony, as in so much of Mahler’s music, an underlying sense of confrontation with the fundamental uncertainties of life and its tragic essence. It is as if he saw a man standing alone face to face with God, and in defiance of His deity, accusing him of injustice. Why should man endure such suffering without any real assurance of redemption? On a strictly musical level, one can recognize in the Second Symphony, the influence of so many of Mahler’s predecessors, barrios, in the many abrupt frenetic passages in the use of an offstage band and in the appearance of the Dies Irae plainchant, that barriers will use in sound for a fantastic list in the application of his principle of thematic transformation.

Bruckner in the frequent use of brass corrals, string Tremeloes and sustain pedal point, Beethoven of course, whose Ninth Symphony provided Mahler with a second fundamental symphonic structure.

In 1887, one of Mahler’s close friends, Siegfried Lipiner had published in Leipzig his German translation of the poetical works of Adam Mickiewicz, a noted Polish poet deepinder gave a copy of the volume tamala, it included an epic poem originally entitled, the forebears that completely captivated the young composer leibinger had changed the title to token fire, or funeral rights, giving it an aura of ritualism. He justified this renaming by suggesting that funeral rites the akin to religious weeks are still held by people in many provinces in Lithuania, East Prussia and Columbia. Such pre Christian ceremonies sprang he said, from man’s current belief that banquets offered in honor of the dead can sue them and better their condition.

The romantic and heroic character of the poem attracted Mahler more than its historical or religious content. Its tragic tale of loss, love was evidently biographical. The author’s hopeless passion for a young girl, who although in love with him, married someone else. The shop was so great that it drove the poet to the brink of madness. Like his hero, whose name incidentally was Gustave, he became obsessed with the idea of suicide. Mahler may have related the subject matter of the poem to his own love affair with Marian Matilda Vaughan’s neighbor, which reached its tragic conclusion at about the time Mahler became acquainted with the poem. Whether it was the subject or simply the title of the poem that intrigued him. Mahler soon set to work to create a symphonic movement, listing and character, and dimension.

In this extensive movement, he would express both his personal heartbreak and as he said, a sense of outrage at the apparent omnipotence of death, and the lack of ultimate significance in human life in the face of the movement that emerged bears the title that Lipitor gave to the poem Todtenfeier, as in both the first Symphony and the poem that inspired total fire, the hero is the author himself, who projects his own life and personality into the work. But Mahler intended to present a universal spiritual message, his personal tragedy, serving to fuel both his vilification of human suffering and his search for a sustainable purpose and meaning in life.

The symphonic poem that Mahler would call token fire, had apparently been conceived from the outset as the first movement of a projected Symphony. In the spring of 1893, Mahler completed the Andante and skirts are movements, intending them to follow Todtenfeier in what will ultimately become his second Symphony.

Mahler’s are boarded up an affair with Frau von Faber was probably the direct inspiration for the Andante movement. Thus, his reference to an hour of happiness long passed in an early program. For the scherzo Mahler looks to his recently completed Wunderhorn Lieder, his choice of the thief predict song was an inspiration. It contains two significant Mahlerian elements otherwise absent in the symphony, expressions of parody and a moto perpetual rhythm that symbolizes the meaningless world of everyday life. Both the undaunted and scherzo movements serve in different ways as what Mahler calls internet site in that they divert attention from the stark atmosphere and intense rage of the old opening movement by bringing to the fore more mundane aspects of human life that need to be explored in order to come to grips with lights essence. The Andante provides a needed romantic contrast to the terrors evoked in the first movement.

While the biting irony of the scherzo represents a parody of passages from the outer movements written before both the Andante and skirts a woman’s the Fourth Movement initially was not conceived as part of the symphony until after Mahler had decided on setting the club stock him in the finale. In 1893, Mahler orchestrated the song for inclusion in the symphony, recognizing the need to provide a buffer between the skirt so movement and the expanse of the choral finale, he chose one of his earlier religious songs to serve as a brief repose before the monumental closing movement. Yet he had no idea how to conclude this already enormous Symphony attended the funeral of the famous Wagnerian conductor Hans von Bulow, with whom Mahler had served as fellow conductor in Homburg. Mahler had presented his token fire to von Bulow for critical comment in 1891, only to have it summarily rejected.

During the funeral ceremony, Mahler heard a recitation of Friedrich Klopstock well-known choral hymn “Resurrection”. After the ceremonies ended, he immediately rushed back to his apartment and set to work. Soon after, his comrade and fellow composer Yosef Boleslav first visited him. He found Mahler in a state of great agitation. First, I asked Mahler if he had been to the funeral. And when model replied in the affirmative, first a new in an instant that Mahler had last found his inspiration for the finale.

Over the years, the title resurrection has been given to the Second Symphony, although there is no evidence that Mahler ever intended the symphony to have this or any other subtitle. Similarly, Mahler did not authorize the use of the subtitle Titan for the First Symphony, after he eliminated from the original five movements symphonic poem when he converted the work to a symphony, Mahler felt that subtitles would create more a misunderstanding than edification about the underlying meaning of these symphonies.

By Lew Smoley

If you have found any errors or text needing citation, please notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

Error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: