Gearing up for triumphant performance of Mahler 2

Mahler Symphony No.2, ‘Resurrection’

Why, for a flagship Vivace Chorus concert to celebrate my 60th birthday, would I select a work which has only about 15 minutes of choral singing at the end of the Symphony? Simply, because they are some of the best 15 minutes in the choral repertoire, moving from a whispered, barely audible entry (following the orchestral representation of the collapse of everything as we know it) to a glorious, life-affirming peroration!

In the 60 minutes that precede this include a massive first movement funeral march, a light-hearted Austrian dance (the Ländler), and a solemn solo song from ‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’ (a collection of German folk poems). “A symphony must be like the world: it must contain everything” said Mahler – this symphony most certainly does!

To complement this towering work is Bruckner’s ‘Mass in E minor’ for choir, woodwind and brass. This is Bruckner at his most dramatic and expressive and, with no soloists involved, focusses purely on the choir. It’s a big sing with barely a bar’s rest for the choir, again encompassing the full emotional gamut.

© Jeremy Backhouse