SEASON GRAND FINALE - MAHLER’S SYMPHONY NO. 2 “RESURRECTION”
Featuring a combined 160-voice chorus (FM Chamber Chorale, NDSU Concert Choir)
With soprano Adrienne Danrich and mezzo-soprano Janine Hawley
Saturday, April 25 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, April 26 at 2:00 pm
NDSU Festival Concert Hall
Tickets: $10-15 Students, $25-$35 Adult
The Fargo-Moorhead Symphony is featuring one of the most towering and awe-inspiring pieces in the orchestral repertoire as its season finale – and the only piece on the program – Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, known as the “Resurrection” Symphony. Like Beethoven’s ninth symphony, it features a chorus and vocal soloists in the final movement, but the piece is more ambitious and expansive in scope. The orchestra is enlarged for this concert, as the composer’s score calls for many extra brass and woodwind players, plus two harps and organ. Added to the supersized orchestra will be a combined 160-voice chorus (the FM Chamber Chorale and NDSU Concert Choir), plus two vocal soloists: soprano Adrienne Danrich and mezzo-soprano soloist Janine Hawley.
Asked to share his thoughts on this massive piece and what kind of listening experience Fargo-Moorhead audiences should expect, Music Director Christopher Zimmerman was effusive in describing of one of his favorite musical works – in fact the very piece which inspired him to pursue a career in conducting:
"A step beyond Beethoven’s 9th (which was the first symphony to add singers and chorus to the orchestral forces), Gustav Mahler's 2nd symphony is a musical journey which speaks of the human condition in all its complexities and paradoxes; AND touches on the nature of existence, religion and the afterlife. Only this composer could take on such an ambitious agenda and succeed in producing one of the most exciting, beautiful and exultant works that has yet been written.
"The opposite of abstract composition, all of Mahler's symphonies are determined to embrace the world and take us on human journeys full of embattlement and catharses, each from a different perspective.
"In the case of the 2nd symphony, Mahler in a sense takes up from where he left off at the end of the 1st symphony--itself a giant, dramatic canvas. Here he embarks upon an even greater, more expanded musical structure. The journey starts with the perennial question of death in the nature of a huge 25-minute funeral march, ending in mockery -- Why do we suffer? What do we live for? Is it all a terrifying joke?
"The 2nd and 3rd movements bring both the joys and frustrations of everyday living more into focus through the use of simple tunes and charming dances hard up against more eruptive and violent outbursts. The overall sense with these middle movements is one of living life fully with all its pleasures and pains but with the underlying unease of "but why?". The painful, and almost chaotic, mixture of emotions that the music represents in the 3rd movement especially, gives us the feeling that indeed the composer is lost for an answer.
"But then he finds it. The tiny 4th movement--barely 5 minutes, simply scored and very sparse, almost ascetic in quality compared to the occasional paroxysms and volcanic eruptions of Mahler's huge orchestra in the preceding three movements--incorporates a single voice (alto vocal solo) pleading to "return to God.”
"The final movement starts with a howl of pain (which first erupted toward the end of the 3rd movement) and immediately takes us back to all the emotional and psychological furies of the first movement; but now we have witnessed the unmistakable sign of hope and an answer from the tiny voice of the 4th movement. The placing of that 4th movement "oasis" is a brilliant dramatic move on Mahler's part and it is crucial to our psyche as we go through this final movement's emotional rollercoaster.
"At a point which can only be described as "the day of judgment" where the demons of death and destruction seem all pervasive (not unlike one of those hideous orc battles in Lord of the Rings) and on the verge of triumph, we hear the call of the last trumpet or, as Mahler wrote himself when being pressured to give a program to the symphony (something which, interestingly, he was fundamentally uneasy about, and which later on he withdrew because he did not want to put in a strait jacket an emotional response to his music): "The great summons is heard; the trumpets from the Apocalypse call; in the midst of the awful silence we think we hear in the farthest distance a nightingale, like a last quivering echo of earthly life! Softly there rings out a chorus of the holy and the heavenly." The chorus enters for the first time--truly one of the most magical and amazingly effective moments in all Western music, and we are on the train to heaven.
"If this all seems a little much, it is! The incredible thing is that the sheer sound world of Mahler and his huge orchestra and the structure of his canvas actually give the possible "excesses" of this journey a blazing reality and sense of inevitability. It is like watching the Lord of the Rings in the very best HD technology (yes, with the 3D glasses to boot)--you cannot fail to be engulfed and entranced no matter the story-line. Mahler's orchestral spectrum is so rich, so varied and so broad, it is a wonderful world in itself. With vast forces he can unleash huge convulsions of sound, or spin out wisps of a highly delicate lonely voice, all with utmost clarity--a devastating feat of unsurpassed orchestrational technique. And yet on top of that he takes us on a carefully sculpted journey, with the dramatic weights and balances carefully calculated.
"This is 80 minutes of enthralling music."
This is the final performance of the 2014-15 Sanford Health Masterworks Concert Series season. The 2015-16 season (dates, repertoire, soloists) will be announced at the April concert, and advance season tickets will be offered for sale in the lobby during intermission and after the concert.
– Concert Sponsor
Tickets are $25 - $35 for Adults and $10 - $15 for Students (including college), available online here and by phone at 701-478-3676.
Thank you for your generosity on Giving Hearts Day!
PRESENTING THE 2014-15 CONCERT SEASON:
Start your journey here...