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I had the privilege of seeing the Mahler 2nd last night, a piece I honestly wasn’t that familiar with. I’d heard the finale (one of the reasons I went was just to hear the finale live), but not much else. Here’s a link for the finale, thats ending is one of the only transcendent pieces I’ve ever heard. There’s something about hearing a piece for almost 250 musicians (including TEN horns and TEN trumpets (brass power!)) that makes its aesthetic, power, and epicness unmatched.

The video I’ve posted on here, though, is the fourth movement, entitled Urlicht (Primeval Light). I found it especially beautiful. 

Mahler devised a narrative programme for the work. The first movement represents a funeral and asks questions such as “Is there life after death?”; the second movement is a remembrance of happy times in the life of the deceased; the third movement represents a view of life as meaningless activity; the fourth movement is a wish for release from life without meaning; and the fifth movement – after a return of the doubts of the third movement and the questions of the first – ends with a fervent hope for everlasting, transcendent renewal.


O Röschen rot!

Der Mensch liegt in größter Noth!

Der Mensch liegt in größter Pein!

Je lieber möcht’ ich im Himmel sein.

Da kam ich auf einen breiten Weg:

Da kam ein Engelein und wollt’ mich abweisen.

Ach nein! Ich ließ mich nicht abweisen!

Ich bin von Gott und will wieder zu Gott!

Der liebe Gott wird mir ein Lichtchen geben,

Wird leuchten mir bis in das ewig selig Leben!

In English

Primeval Light

O red rose!

Man lies in greatest need!

Man lies in greatest pain!

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 from God and shall return to God!

The loving God will grant me a little light,

Which will light me into that eternal blissful life!

This work, as a whole, is a beautiful and epic example of Mahler’s closeness with his faith. In his own words: “If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music.”


  1. artslifeboston posted this