A titanic way to end a powerful, joyous, life-affirming concert season, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 encompasses an Everest of human emotion. From Hill Auditorium, the 90-minute symphonic journey from cataclysm to catharsis underscores the composer’s belief in life after death and the possibility of ultimate redemption. Ferocious, seismic utterances open the symphony’s partwriting; chorus and soloists reinforce the orchestra’s ethereal transformation from darkness to transfixing light at its close.
Massive, menacing and unimaginably moving, the symphony has undergone a “resurrection” in its own right. Once dismissed as unplayable, the inexhaustible efforts of Mahlerians such as Leonard Bernstein rescued the work from obscurity, with Bernstein insisting on its performance two days following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A fitting profession of deliverance from despair, the symphony’s performance set the stage for one of Bernstein’s most memorable quotes: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”