Mahler’s “Resurrection Symphony” Uplifts at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

Gustav Mahler has been the subject of interest and creativity for many Indianapolis artists recently. Last year’s Mahler Project at Butler University, Clowes Memorial Hall and the Indianapolis Museum of Art created works of dance, theatre, art and even new music based on the inspiration Mahler has left on the artistic world nearly one hundred years after his death. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra continues Indianapolis art’s fascination with Gustav Mahler by presenting his Second Symphony “Resurrection.” This Indianapolis music event takes over Hilbert Circle Theatre of Indianapolis downtown Friday, May 21 at 8:00 pm and Saturday, May 22 at 5:30 pm. Experience the sheer power of Mahler’s most celebrated works of music.

Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra blogger Zach French likens Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony to James Joyce’s stream of conscious account of Dublin in his masterwork Ulysses, saying, “It is that which is unsaid, unspeakable and indescribable. . . many artists struggle to capture the spirit of their inspiration.” As Joyce transcribed the essence of Dublin through his brilliant prose, so to does Mahler combine contrasting emotions: “ferocity, serenity, chaos, cynicism, peace, the sublime,” as he explores the idea of existence after death.

Mahler composed the Resurrection Symphony between 1888 and 1894, with its debut performance occurring in 1895. This ninety minute composition spans five movements that culminate in a moving crescendo followed by marked silence. He took the term “Resurrection” from the title of a hymn by German poet, Friedrick Klopstock. The first eight lines of the hymn appear in the fourth movement of the piece, and mark an important first for Mahler: the first time one of his orchestrations utilized vocals. Though Mahler expands on Klopstock’s words with a few of his own.

It is widely known that Mahler’s own religious affiliation provide a major conflict throughout the musician’s life. Though he was born Jewish in what is now Jihlave, a small village in the modern Czech Republic, Mahler ultimately converted to Catholicism with the intention of becoming the conductor of the Vienna State Opera in 1897. Many of Mahler’s compositions are considered Christian based, but Mahler never denied his Judaic heritage. He often incorporated klezmer music fragments into his work, blending religion in his music as it was blended in his life.

The Resurrection Symphony presents a kind of retrospective for the soul, which climaxes with a religious awakening. The first movement offers a violent, angry interpretation of a funeral march, which passes through many moods as would a grieving person. The second movement resembles a joyful German waltz. The tender and contemplative music moves toward reflection of a now past earthly life. The third movement incorporates Jewish folk music with a cry of despair as it climaxes. The fourth movement, sung by an alto, one person pines for an end to their worldly despair in search of a more heavenly existence.

The fifth and final movement is a regal and triumphant interpretation of Resurrection. Through the use of on and off stage instruments, Mahler gives the distinct impression of the return of a supernatural being in the distances. As one and off stage musicians and instruments rise above one another, the music grows to fill the bodies of each member of the audience before stopping suddenly in a palpable moment of silence.

Don’t miss Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra this Friday and Saturday. Tickets range from $16.00 to $68.00. ┬áBefore the performance, take a stroll around Monument Circle and marvel at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. Or grab dinner at any of these yummy Indianapolis restaurants. After the concert, head to these refreshing Indianapolis bars for a nightcap or two.

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Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Friday, May 21 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, May 22 at 5:30 pm

Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
Hilbert Circle Theatre
45 Monument Circle
Indianapolis, IN 46204