Mahler – for comfort and hope


There has been more than enough pontificating about the state of the world which we currently inhabit, so you will be relieved to know that I am not about to bore you with my own opinions, be they political or amateur philosophical.

There’s always a ‘but’, though, isn’t there? ‘But’ mine is a very simple one. Who among us, over these last several weeks, has not spent more time in thought – whether reminiscing on times and loved ones of bygone days, or in contemplation, perhaps particularly, about the youth of today and their futures, whose lives have twice been put on hold; first by prolonged wranglings over Brexit, and now by COVID-19?

I know I have. This is where music can step in and show us its real worth. One of its functions, as Thomas Beecham once said, ‘is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought.’ A few minutes a day (in my case, many) can provide unrivalled solace and a welcome escape from our wandering minds.

In Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, The Resurrection, first performed in 1895, the composer is expressing in music his belief in an afterlife and resurrection. It matters nothing whether or not you share his belief, that is not the point: today I bring you two clips which seem to encapsulate neatly the two reassurances we seek now above all others – comfort and hope.

The second movement, here in full, is a reflection of happier times in the life of the deceased, whose funeral is depicted in the dramatic first. It is delicate and simple; and with a gorgeous tune to boot! It is supremely comforting music, clothed in tenderness, but also has a strong sense of pining and nostalgia. Listen to the way Mahler mingles two melodies between violins and ‘cellos, it’s utterly enchanting. Click on the image –



And now from comfort to hope: the closing few minutes of the piece. You could scarcely believe this comes from the same symphony. Mahler was determined to have a choir for the final movement, but was more than conscious of having to live up to the success of Beethoven’s 9th just under seventy years before. The words are from Friedrich Klopstock’s poem, The Resurrection, “Rise again, yes, you shall rise again”.

Not that you need to know that, for there have been few passages in all music that effuse such optimism. Conductor Simon Rattle looks to be on the point of an internal combustion. Your belief doesn’t matter. This big, this huge, sound is all about hope and love. Shut the door and turn it up. Your spirits will be raised to unexpected heights.

Click on the image –