Chor und Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin
Sir Donald Runnicles, conductor
“What was created, must perish! What has perished, must rise again!” That death is not the end was Mahler’s most cherished vision. In his monumental Second Symphony, his attempts to grapple with existence are manifest on a grand scale. The choir and orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin under Sir Donald Runnicles will take their listeners along with them on this route per aspera ad astra – through hardship to the stars.
There are few pieces of music whose message is as clear as that of Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony. This monumental work that burst the boundaries of tradition resembles a “musical mystery play” (Heinrich von Kralik), with the idea of resurrection, that “I shall die in order to live”, at its heart in the choral finale. With its skilful dramaturgy of sound and space enabling life and the afterlife to meet audibly, the work was described by Mahler’s contemporaries as a piece of imagined theatre: “It sounds,” Mahler wrote, “as if everything has been transported from another world.” In the music, the “trumpets of the Apocalypse” call out “a great summons” with “horns raised” until the choir delivers the all-important message. Mahler had to search through “the whole of world literature including the Bible” until he found “the liberating words” of this final chorus. He found it in Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock’s “Resurrection” poem – or, to be precise, in its first two verses, after which he hastily wrote the remaining lines himself, borrowing from Chapter 15 of the First Letter to the Corinthians. The premiere with Mahler conducting took place in Berlin and was a triumphant success. “One may never experience jubilation of this kind again,” Mahler’s sister Justine reported. “I saw men crying and youths embrace each other at the end. […] The impression it made was indescribable!” Sir Donald Runnicles and both the chorus and orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin once again turn Mahler’s visions of the Apocalypse and the Resurrection into resounding reality.