St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Strauss. Mahler

Second concert of the twelfth subscription

Richard Strauss
for stringed instrument ensemble

Gustav Mahler
Symphony No 2
Soloists: Anastasia Kalagina (soprano), Zlata Bulycheva (mezzo-soprano)

Chorus and Symphony Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre
Principal Chorus Master: Andrei Petrenko

Richard Strauss. Metamorphosen
This grandiose adagio for twenty-three instruments is one of the most personal and touching works in the composer’s entire musical legacy. The direct reason for its being written lay in the tragic events of the last few months of World War II, of which the German maestro wrote to his friend Joseph Gregor: “I am in a despairing mood! Goethe’s home has been destroyed, that wonderful holy place in this world! My beautiful Dresden – Weimar – Munich, all in ruins!” Strauss did not conceal the programme idea of the piece, which was to be a farewell the great culture of Germany, of which the composer saw himself as the last representative, and at the same time is was a reflection of his own past life. In Metamorphosen there are motifs of a sad prayer for the dead that form the work’s core, and there are many musical allusions – King Marke’s theme from Wagner’s Tristan and Mandryka’s theme from Arabella, written together with the great playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The unique motto of the work comes with the theme of the Funeral March from Beethoven’s symphony Eroica, the most unambiguous work which the composer adorned with the words “In memoriam”.
Nadezhda Kulygina


Gustav Mahler Symphony No 2
In performance practice, Mahler’s Second Symphony has been given the programme title of The Resurrection Symphony. This name comes from Klopstock’s spiritual song Rise again, yes, rise again, to the text of which Mahler turned in the finale of his symphony.
Work on the symphony lasted over six years – from 1888 to 1894. Of the symphony’s programme, the composer wrote: “I named the first movement Trisna… here I bury the hero of my Symphony in D Major (Symphony No 1 with the programme title Titan – I. R.) … At the same time, this movement is a grand question – Why did you live? Why did you suffer? Surely all this is not a great, terrible joke? The second movement is a memoir! A ray of sunlight, pure and serene, from the life of my hero. This has, in all probability, occurred to you: you have buried someone dear to you and then, perhaps, on the way home you suddenly see a scene of a moment of happiness long since past… If you then wake up from this sad dream and must immerse yourself in the humdrum of life, then it might easily happen that this always changing, always troubled, always incomprehensible chaos then becomes terrifying for you… Then life becomes meaningless for you. A terrible dream from which, perhaps, you might suddenly awake with a shriek of repugnance. That is the third movement! What follows after that is clear to you!”
After the grandiose heroic and tragic first movement, the “ray of sunlight” comes in with an unhurried, refined, philistine comfortable Ländler. This gives way to a glorious scherzo, the music of which is based on a song by Mahler from the vocal cycle Des Knabens Wunderhorn.
And then the moment comes – the moment of spiritual maturity, when for the first time Mahler calls on the literary word for the first time in his symphonic music. Not words about music – they will always be smaller than the music itself and comparable only with the “road signs” or the “celestial map” – but rather words blended with music, expressing “the treasured idea of the symphony” (Inna Borisova). As such a “word of consent” the composer introduces the song Urlicht for solo alto and orchestra in the fourth movement of the symphony, to words from Des Knabens Wunderhorn.
The finale is the central part of the symphony. Thematic threads from the preceding movements lead to the finale. With staggering clarity, “before the audience’s eyes” Mahler draws out the cyclical form of the finale, condensing it towards the final choral section. First in the choral fugato and afterwards in the powerful unison of the fifteen-singer chorus and, finally, in the dazzling orchestration there resounds a hymn to creative deathlessness, a hymn to eternal life.
Iosif Raiskin

Age category 6+

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