Columbus Symphony and Mahler, Live Saturday Night on Classical 101

Columbus Symphony Music Director Jean-Marie Zeitouni and the CSO live on Classical 101 Saturday night.(Photo: CSO/Chip Willis)
Columbus Symphony Music Director Jean-Marie Zeitouni and the CSO live on Classical 101 Saturday night.(Photo: CSO/Chip Willis)

From Darkness to Light

The Columbus Symphony begins the 2013-2014 season this Saturday night at 8 with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony number 2, the Resurrection Symphony.

Jean-Marie Zeitouni conducts, beginning his final season as the CSO’s music director. The Columbus Symphony chorus is directed by Ronald Jenkins, and the soloists are Dominique Labelle, soprano and Sacha Cooke, mezzo-soprano. The performance will be broadcast live on Classical 101.

Mahler was not a minimalist. He wrote no chamber music. Even his orchestral songs are grand in scope. There’s not a lot of humor or charm wither. What true is in Mahler’s nine gargantuan symphonies is drama. Emotions spill out, often in a rage or a torrent. One minute the composer mimics the birds and the cow bells of his beloved Bohemia; another there’s a blood curdling cry from a large chorus, or a symphony of brass instruments. Mahler isn’t easy but he is never dull.

If you’re looking for a huge work to involve the entire performing community, the Mahler second is a good choice. I suspect it is the composer’s most performed work. It is better balanced, musically and emotionally than the magnificent later symphonies.

The title Resurrection references the great choral sequence that ends the work. A soul ascends to haven but is stopped by an angel. Turn back, your time is not yet here! And the chorus cries ‘Auferstehen!” Risen!, referring not to the deity but to a soul in torment restored to life.

Mahler (1860-1911) made his living as a conductor, in Hamburg, Vienna, Prague and New York. He was the most celebrated conductor of his age. For a few years he directed the Hofoper in Vienna-a post filled with political quicksand. Composition waited for summer vacations in the alps.

The Second Symphony was written between 1888 and 1894. The composer conducted the first performance, in Berlin in 1895. Mahler’s hope for an afterlife is illustrated brilliantly in this work, with its promise in the chorus of darkness leading to light.

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