Performance Friday, October 31, 2014 | 8 PM

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Throughout his life, Mahler maintained that he did not compose music to preexisting programs. But after the 1895 premiere of his “Resurrection” Symphony, critics asked him for a program. He reluctantly gave in and, between 1896 and 1901, provided three programs for the work, all of which he later withdrew. While the three descriptions differ, the sung texts of the symphony’s fourth-movement “Urlicht” (Primal Light) and rapturous choral finale are certainly keys to this remarkable work. “The ensemble, famous for its glowing strings and homogeneous richness, has never sounded better … The Philadelphia Orchestra seems to have found its ideal music director,” said The New York Times of Yannick Nézet-Séguin.


  • The Philadelphia Orchestra
    Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Music Director and Conductor
  • Angela Meade, Soprano
  • Sarah Connolly, Mezzo-Soprano
  • Westminster Symphonic Choir
    Joe Miller, Director


  • MAHLER Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection"

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.


Mahler's Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection" (In ruhig fliessender Bewegung)
The Philadelphia Orchestra | Christoph Eschenbach, Conductor

At a Glance

Gustav Mahler, in his 20s and 30s, was a very busy man on the rise. He devoted most of his time to building a conducting career, chiefly of opera, and meteorically ascended from provincial theaters to the most prized position in Europe: music director of the Court Opera in Vienna. Such a demanding pace left little time for composing, most of which he did during the summer months. Mahler was conflicted about the kind of music to write and concentrated on songs and program music. What we now know as his Symphony No. 1 was premiered in Budapest as a “Symphonic Poem in Two Parts,” and for some time he planned a sequel with a massive single-movement piece called Todtenfeier (Funeral Rites), which became the first movement of the Second Symphony we hear tonight.

It is remarkable that the Second Symphony, composed over the span of nearly seven years (the longest gestation for any of Mahler’s works), should emerge as one of his most powerful and seemingly unified compositions. When he began writing it in 1888 at age 28, he had no idea where it would go, and the process of discovery—and self-discovery—addressed issues no less weighty than the meaning of life and death. How to conclude the symphony posed a particular problem, and the solution, when it came, proved a revelation: a choral finale setting a “Resurrection” poem by the 18th-century German writer Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, which Mahler adapted with his own words.

What became known as the “Resurrection” Symphony is one of the longest, most ambitious, and profoundly moving orchestral works ever composed; its unusual impact and philosophical import has been recognized ever since Mahler conducted the premiere in Berlin in 1895.
This performance is part of The Philadelphia Orchestra, and Fabulous Fridays.

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