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Something of this inner conflict can be sensed in the indecision that marked the early stages of composition of the Second Symphony (the so-called ‘Resurrection’ Symphony). Mahler began work on a huge symphonic funeral march in the summer of 1888. At first he seems to have viewed it as the first movement of an orchestral symphony; but before long the conception had changed, and Mahler was looking on this movement as a self-standing symphonic poem with the title Totenfeier—‘Funeral Rites’. Eventually this was revised, but not essentially reconceived, as the first movement of the Second Symphony. Totenfeier is scored for more modest orchestral forces than the later symphonic version (though they are still large by the standards of the time). It was only later that Mahler added the second harp and set of timpani, the two piccolo clarinets and the four extra brass. Yet the colours remain more or less the same. We also find broadly the same narrative sequence: the harsh tones and jagged rhythms of the opening march theme are offset by a gentler, aspiring melody in the major key. The opposition between these two types of music—grim pessimism and tentative aspiration—continues through all the changes of tempo, texture and key that follow. But in Totenfeier, as in the Second Symphony’s first movement, it is death who finally proves the victor: a brusque falling scale ends pathetically in hush, and extinction.
from notes by Stephen Johnson © 2011
|Mahler: Totenfeier & Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen|
Dame Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano), Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Vladimir Jurowski (conductor)
Vladimir Jurowski conducts the Orchestra of the Age of Englightenment and Sarah Connolly in Mahler's electrifying Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Totenfeier, recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall in London .» More