Not many artists, of any kind, have explicitly tackled the challenge of depicting the resurrection. Visual art, sculpture, music, poetry, prose, dance, theatre … there are expressions of the mystery of the imagined life after death in each of these genres, but not many. As I have contemplated this challenge, I’ve come to realize that the naming is not really the issue. While works that depict a programmatic representation of resurrection do exist, the naming is not the important part. The smell of the rose and the experience of rebirth are the determining factors.
Over this season of Easter, the musical selections will feature some of the works that inspire resurrection emotions: joy, wonder, and awe. I want to begin with Mahler’s Symphony #2, subtitled The Resurrection. Following the model of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Mahler set his Second with soloists and choir in the final movement – a grand and epic finale. But Mahler’s text is one that he wrote himself – a text that reflects a deep belief that despite pain and suffering and even death, God will ultimately embrace us. As was the custom, Mahler originally wrote a program for the Second Symphony, but he removed it soon after the first performances. Listen for your self. What does the music speak to you? Where do the melodies take you? How does the shape of the music reflect a journey of hope? If you can, listen to the work in its entirety to hear its expansive development.
Gustav Mahler, Symphony #2 The Resurrection
Gustavo Dudamel, Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, the National Youth Choir of Great Britain
The organist at my church nailed this wonderful organ work as the Postlude on Easter Sunday. Worth a listen, any day.
Charles-Marie Widor, Fifth Symphony for Organ in F Major