Review: BBC NOW - Mahler's Resurrection Symphony @ SDH
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St. David's Hall, Cardiff
Thursday 4th June 2015
As an end of season concert, BBC NOW usually end with a bang. A blockbuster piece that can blast the concert roof off, leaving devastation in its path.
To commence the night's music was B Tommy Andersson and his Satyricon: Choreographic Poem. Based on the old Roman story by Gaius Petronius, it had vivid colours and a striking rhythmic value. I feel this would be better suited for a concert that also bill Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, to complement one frantic work with another.
As for the Mahler, his 2nd Symphony is perhaps one of the greatest in the canon. Dubbed the "Resurrection", this hour and half is a gargantuan journey, both musically and spiritually. With homage to Beethoven and Wagner, sung verse from Des Knaben Wunderhorn and Friedrich Klopstock (great name) and a huge orchestra (including an organ, two harps... eleven horns!), mixed chorus, two vocal soloists, off stage band and more, it can easily be all encompassing.
This mass symphony has too many highlights to list. The writing for double basses, the woodwind, solo violin and strings (at one point all the strings plucking their instruments brings smiles), percussion and more were stellar. The two female soloists, Susan Gritton and Jennifer Johnston had great strength in their singing. The near unbearable fourth movement Urlicht (Primal Light) has a solemn solo for Johnston, heralding remarks like "how much better it would be to be in heaven!" with pristine strings and then folkish delights. The third movement, In ruhig fliessender Bewegung (Calmly flowing) is a swirling, unstoppable whirl, containing the most beautifully saccharine trumpet music you could ever here, as the strings eloquently accompany, in there resplendent glory. The brass is also stand alone in their grandest of joys, being the backbone of the music a lot of the time.
The fifth and final movement details souls on their journey to the afterlife. With the chorus here swelling, creating electrifying noise and haunting cries of "Zu gott", I was paralysed by the sheer vitality of the work. I remained a silent, quivering mess, with many tears strewn down my face.
I had forgotten how cataclysmic and powerful Mahler was.
A life affirming journey of throttling power.
Rating: 5 stars
BBC NOW continue on to the BBC Proms in London, then back in the autumn in Cardiff for a new season of music.
- Review: WNO Orchestra - Stravinsky's Rite Of Spring @ SDH
- Review: BBC NOW - Mahler's 9th Symphony @ SDH
- Review: BBC NOW - Mahler's 5th Symphony @ SDH
Image Credit: Hans Schließmann (1852–1920) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons