Piano Concerto No.2 in Bb major Opus 19 (1) Ludwig Van Beethoven Download 'Piano Concerto No.2 in Bb major Opus 19 (1)' on iTunes
Not content with stretching the orchestra to its limit, Mahler clearly fancied a challenge when composing his Symphony No.2 in the late 1800s.
His triumphant symphonic debut, the ‘Titan’, had called for many more instruments than was the norm, so for his follow-up he decided to go one step further. The gargantuan symphony orchestra would remain, but alongside it was placed an organ, an offstage brass ensemble, and some church bells. And a choir. A very large choir. And, to round things off, some soloists. It’s little wonder that, when- ever the Resurrection Symphony is performed, it’s the only work on the programme.
But if the roll-call of performers sounds indulgent and overpowering, the actual effect is spine-tingling. Mahler was a master at writing for such large forces. Far from feeling overwhelmed by a mass of noise, the very best performances of his Symphony No.2 convey its many different musical ideas, all woven together to create the most thrilling and joyous sound.
Written across a six-year period, the Resurrection Symphony was Mahler’s most loved work during his own lifetime. The premiere performance in March 1895 featured the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (plus a bus load of singers, bell-ringers and the like) with the composer himself conducting. It was, quite simply, a triumph.
Eteri Gvazava (soprano); Anna Larsson (contralto); Orfeón Donostiarra (choir); Lucerne Festival Orchestra; Claudio Abbado (conductor). Deutsche Grammophon: DG 477 0582.
Illustration: Mark Millington