Home Culture Gustav Mahler’s 2nd Symphony “Resurrection”

Gustav Mahler’s 2nd Symphony “Resurrection”

by William Orbaugh
Jesus is risen

Dear friends, I hope you’re all very well! 

Since we must certainly be all sheltered in our homes and longing to go out and go back to the theater or any other artistic event, I want to invite you to a concert! I invite you for an hour and a half, to turn your home into a splendid concert hall and delight in super video of Gustav Mahler’s 2nd Symphony “Resurrection”! 

A brief history of the work: 

The symphony was born as Totenfeier (Funeral Rites), a symphonic poem in one movement based on the poetic drama Dziady by the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz, which Mahler finished in 1888. He later returned to the movement, adding three more in late 1893 – they were the first four of the movements we know. He left the piece for a while, feeling that it needed a finale. 

In 1894, at the funeral of a colleague, Mahler heard a musicalization of the ode Aufersteh’n (Resurrection) by the German poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock. That was a revelation, and he decided to finish his work with his own musicalization of that poem, to which he made some modifications. 

Mahler devised a narrative program for his musical piece. In this program, the first movement represents a funeral and answers questions such as: “Is there life after death?” Musically, it evokes a funeral march, grim, violent, choleric. 


The second movement is a reminder of the happy times of the life of the deceased. 

The third movement represents a view of life as meaningless activity, a complete loss of faith, considering life as frivolous nonsense. 

The fourth movement represents the rebirth of faith (“I am of God, and I will return to God”), based on the text of a German folk poem: 

Primeval Light
O little red rose!
Man lies in greatest suffering!
Man lies in greatest sorrow!
How I would rather be in heaven.
There came I upon a broad path
when came a little angel and wanted to turn me away.
Ah no! I would not let myself be turned away!
I am of God and shall return to God!
The loving God will grant me a little light,
Which will light my way into eternal blissful life!

The fifth movement, after the return of the doubts of the third movement and the questions of the first, ends with a realization of God’s love, and the recognition of life after death (the resurrection), based on Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock’s poem Resurrection

Choir, Soprano
Arise, yes, you will rise from the dead, my dust, after a short rest!
Eternal life will be given you by Him who called you.
To bloom again you have been sown.
The lord of the harvest goes and gathers the sheaves, Us who have died.


Oh, believe, my heart, believe: Nothing will be lost to you!! 

Yours is, yes, yours, is what you desired! Yours, what you have loved, what you have struggled for. What has perished will be resurrected! 


Oh, believe, you were not born in vain! You have not suffered in vain! 


What was created must perish! What has perished will rise again! 

Choir, Contralto 

Tremble no more! Prepare yourself to live!

Soprano, Contralto

 Oh, pain, all-penetrating! I’ve escaped from you! 

Oh Death, all-conquering! Now, are you conquered!


With wings that I have conquered in ardent desire of love, 

I shall soar upwards to the light which no eye has penetrated!
I shall die, so as to live! 

Choir, Soprano, Contralto

Arise, yes, you will arise from the dead, my heart, in an instant!
That for which you suffered, will bear you to God.

This symphony is considered the first successful attempt to go beyond the point Beethoven reached in his Ninth Symphony. 

I hope that you will take the time to see and listen to this monumental work of art and that this will contribute to a Holy Week of high spiritual and artistic value. I recommend this very recent version:

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