Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony – Program Notes

Ryan Haskins, Music Director & Conductor

Celena Shafer, Sporano

Michelle Deyoung, Mezzo-soprano

Dordt University Choir
Iowa Lakes Community College Choir
Missouri River Choral Society
Morningside University Symphonic Choir
University of South Dakota Symphonic Choir

Program Pieces & Movements

Gustav Mahler

  • Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, “Resurrection”
    (1860-1911) (1888-1894)
    I. Allegro maestoso. Mit durchaus ernstem und feierlichem Ausdruck
    II. Andante moderato. Sehr gemächlich
    III. In ruhig fließender Bewegung
    IV. “Urlicht” (from Des Knaben Wunderhorn) Sehr feierlich, aber schlicht
    V. Im Tempo des Scherzo. Wild herausfahren – “Aufersteh’n”
    (Text: Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock & Gustav Mahler)
No Intermission

Program Notes

Celena Shafer

After two summers as an apprentice at the Santa Fe Opera, the career of Soprano Celena Shafer was launched to critical raves as Ismene in Mozart’s Mitridate, Re di Ponto. Anne Midgette in the New York Times wrote, “It takes the debutante Celena Shafer, an alumna of the apprentice program here, to show how it should be done, singing the Oriental princess Ismene with flair, vocal balance and great cadenzas.” Since that breakthrough debut, Ms. Shafer has garnered acclaim for her silvery voice, fearlessly committed acting and phenomenal technique. She spends much of her time on the concert stage and has appeared with the orchestras in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Los Angeles with leading conductors such as Christoph von Dohnanyi, Alan Gilbert, Bernard Labadie, Robert Spano, Nicholas McGegan, Kent Nagano, Donald Runnicles, Michael Tilson Thomas, David Robertson and Sir Andrew Davis.

Ms. Shafer’s 2018/19 season include performances of all-Bernstein programs with the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Costa Rica, the Pacific Symphony, and the Grand Rapids Symphony all led by Carl St. Clair; the Britten War Requiem with the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra, and Handel’s Messiah with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. This season she makes two exciting operatic appearances: her first performances as Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute with the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, and a return to the Cincinnati Opera for her first staged performances of Zerbinetta in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos with the Cincinnati Opera.

Among Ms. Shafer’s 2017/2018 appearances included Musetta in La Boheme and the Mozart Mass in C Minor led by Markus Stenz for the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, Carmina Burana in Costa Rica with Carl St. Clair, and Handel’s Messiah with the Nashville Symphony led by Gary Wedow.

Since first appearing with the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera as a high school student, Ms. Shafer has performed operatic roles there including Constanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio, Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Gilda in Rigoletto, Norina in Don Pasquale, Lisette in La Rondine, Tytania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Adele in Die Fledermaus.

Concert repertoire with the USUO has included the Brahms German Requiem, the Bach Magnificat, Vivaldi Gloria, Poulenc Gloria and several concerts of chamber music with conductors such as Bernard Labadie, Raymond Leppard, and former music director Keith Lockhart. She was the 2014/2015 season Artist-in- Residence and recently has sung a New Year’s Eve Gala, Beethoven Symphony No. 9, Mahler Symphonies Nos. 2, 4, and 8, and the Mighty Five tour through Utah’s state parks, all led by music director Thierry Fischer.

Elsewhere Ms. Shafer’s operatic highlights have included Johanna in Sweeney Todd for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Nanetta in Falstaff with the Los Angeles Opera, both with Bryn Terfel; Blonde in Abduction from the Seraglio with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Aithra in Die ägyptische Helena with the American Symphony Orchestra recorded for Telarc; Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos at the Concertgebouw; and Gilda in Rigoletto with the Welsh National Opera. She has returned to the Santa Fe Opera for productions of Mozart’s Lucio Silla, Berlioz’s Beatrice and Benedict, and Britten’s Albert Herring.

She completed her undergraduate at the University of Utah and received a master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Michelle Deyoung

This season, renowned American mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung’s many engagements include appearances with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Belgium National Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, and the Colorado Symphony. She also appeared in the Metropolitan Opera’s special performance of the Verdi Requiem to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

She appears frequently with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, The Met Orchestra (in Carnegie Hall), the Met Chamber Ensemble, Vienna Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Bayerische Staatsoper Orchestra, Berliner Staatskapelle, Sao Paulo Symphony, and the Concertgebouworkest. She has also appeared in the prestigious festivals of Ravinia, Tanglewood, Aspen, Cincinnati, Saito Kinen, Edinburgh, Salzburg, St Denis, and Lucerne.

The conductors with whom she has worked include Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, James Conlon, Sir Colin Davis, Stéphane Denève, Christoph von Dohnányi, Gustavo Dudamel, Christoph Eschenbach, Daniele Gatti, Alan Gilbert, Bernard Haitink, Manfred Honeck, James Levine, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Kent Nagano, Seiji Ozawa, Antonio Pappano, Andre Previn, David Robertson, Donald Runnicles, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Mariss Jansons, Michael Tilson Thomas, Franz Welser-Möst, and Jaap van Zweden.

Ms. DeYoung has also appeared with many of the finest opera houses of the world including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Seattle Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Glimmerglass Opera, La Scala, Bayreuth Festival, Berliner Staatsoper, Hamburg State Opera, Opera National de Paris, Thèâtre du Châtelet, Opéra de Nice, English National Opera, Theater Basel, and the Tokyo Opera. She was also named the 2015 Artist in Residence at Wolf Trap Opera. Her many roles include the title roles in Samson et Dalila and The Rape of Lucretia, Fricka, Sieglinde and Waltraute in The Ring Cycle; Kundry in Parsifal, Venus in Tannhäuser, Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde, Herodias in Salome, Ježibaba in Rusalka, Eboli in Don Carlos, Amneris in Aida, Santuzza in Cavelleria Rusticana, Marguerite in Le Damnation de Faust, Judith in Bluebeard’s Castle, Didon in Les Troyens, Gertrude in Hamlet, and Jocaste in Oedipus Rex. She also created the role of the Shaman in Tan Dun’s The First Emperor at the Metropolitan Opera.

Ms. DeYoung has been presented by the University of Chicago Presents series, the Ravinia Festival, Weill Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall, San Francisco Symphony’s Great Performances series, Cal Performances in Berkeley, SUNY Purchase, Calvin College, the Pittsburgh Symphony, Roy Thomson Hall, the Thèâtre du Châtelet, the Gulbenkian Foundation (Lisbon) the Edinburgh Festival, London’s Wigmore Hall and Brussels’s La Monnaie.

A multi-Grammy award winning recording artist, Ms. DeYoung’s impressive discography includes Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and Götterdämmerung with the Jaap van Zweden and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (Naxos), Kindertotenlieder, Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, and Das Klagende Lied with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS Media), Les Troyens with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO Live!), Mahler Symphony No 3 with both the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Bernard Haitink (CSO Resound) and the Pittsburgh Symphony and Manfred Honeck (Challenge Records International), and her first solo album released by EMI. Her most recent recording of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon) was released in July 2021.

DeYoung recently launched Ensemble Charité, an organization which aims to support various charities while also fostering young, emerging musicians through community performances of chamber concerts with seasoned professional musicians, conducted by Ms. DeYoung.


4. Satz: “Urlicht”
(aus Des Knaben Wunderhorn)O Röschen rot!

Der Mensch liegt in größter Not!

Der Mensch liegt in größter Pein!
Je lieber möcht’ ich im Himmel sein,
Je lieber möcht’ ich im Himmel sein!

Da kam ich auf einen breiten Weg;
da kam ein Engelein und wolt’ mich abweisen.
Ach nein! Ich ließ mich nicht abweisen!
Ach nein! Ich ließ mich nicht abweisen:
Ich bin von Gott und will wieder zu Gott!
Der liebe Gott,
der liebe Gott wird mir ein Lichtchen geben,
Wird leuchten mir bis in das ewig selig Leben!

5. Satz: “Aufersteh’n”
Aufersteh’n, ja aufersteh’n wirst du,
mein Staub, nach kurzer Ruh!
Unsterblich Leben! Unsterblich Leben
wird, der dich rief, dir geben!

Wieder aufzublüh’n, wirst du gesä’t!
Der Herr der Ernte geht
und sammelt Garben
uns ein, die starben!

O glaube, mein Herz! O glaube:
Es geht dir nichts verloren!
Dein ist, ja Dein, was du gesehnt!
Dein, was du geliebt, was du gestritten!

O glaube: Du wardst nicht umsonst geboren!
Hast nicht umsonst gelebt, gelitten!

Was entstanden ist, das muss vergehen!
Was vergangen, auferstehen!

Hör’ auf zu beben!
Bereite dich, zu leben!

O Schmerz! Du Alldurchdringer!
Dir bin ich entrungen!
O Tod! Du Allbezwinger!
Nu bist du bezwungen!

Mit Flügeln, die ich mir errungen,
in heißem Liebesstreben
werd’ ich entschweben
zum Licht, zum dem kein Aug’ gedrungen!

Mit Flügeln, die ich mir errungen,
werde ich entschweben!
Sterben werd’ ich, um zu leben!

Aufersteh’n, ja aufersteh’n wirst du,
mein Herz, in einem Nu!
Was du geschlagen,
zu Gott wird es dich tragen!

Vocal Text

4th Movement: “Primal Light”
(from The Youth’s Magic Horn)

O little red rose!

Man lies in greatest need!

Man lies in greatest need!
Even more would I rather be in heaven,
Even more would I rather be in heaven!

There I came upon a broad path;
There came an angel and wanted to turn me away.
Ah no, I would not be turned away!
Ah no, I would not be turned away:
I am from God and want to return to God!
The loving God,
the loving God will give me a little of the light,
Will illuminate me into the eternal blessed life!

Translated by Renate Stark-Voit and Thomas Hampson

5. 5th Movement: “Resurrection”

Rise again, yea, thou shalt rise again,
My dust, after short rest!
Immortal life!
He who called thee will grant thee.

To bloom again art thou sown!
The Lord of the Harvest goes
And gathers in, like sheaves,
Us who died.

Oh believe, my heart, oh believe:
Nothing is lost with thee!
Thine is what thou hast desired,
What thou hast loved, what thou has fought for!

Oh believe! Thou were not born in vain!
Hast not lived in vain, suffered in vain!

What has come into being must perish!
What perished must rise again!

Cease from trembling!
Prepare thyself to live!

Oh Pain, thou piercer of all things
From thee have I been wrested!
Oh Death, thou masterer of all things,
Now art thou mastered!

With wings which I have won,
In Love’s fierce striving,
I shall soar upwards
To the light to which no eye has soared.

With wings which I have won,
I shall soar upwards
I shall die, to live!

Rise again, yea thou will rise again,
My heart, in the twinkling of an eye!
What thou hast fought for
Shall lead thee to God!

Translation by Deryck Cooke, courtesy of
Cambridge University Press


Despite the massive forces required, Mahler’s second symphony remains one of his most performed thanks to its visceral emotional impact. The December 13, 1895 premiere hung by a thread. Mahler himself was the only one capable of conducting it and he was ill with a migraine attack that would ordinarily have sidelined him. As principal conductor of the Hamburg Opera, he was responsible for leading an array of productions at any given time, including marathon Wagner music dramas. The administration there took a dim view of what they surely saw as his vanity hobby of composing. So each night Mahler conducted an opera, hopped a night train to Berlin, rehearsed his symphony in the morning, and made it back to Hamburg for the next opera. No wonder he fell sick. What justified such a herculean effort?

As a composer, Mahler had no parallel in the late nineteenth century. Though familiar with much music of the past through his conducting, he reserved his greatest respect for Beethoven and Wagner. Like many geniuses, he had a knack for combining the best of what came before him. The scoring of Beethoven’s ninth symphony with a chorus singing text of nondogmatic spiritual uplift held great appeal, as did Wagner’s expanded orchestral resources and unfolding time spans. Both influences found their way into this symphony. Mahler had already tried combining chorus and orchestra in Das klagende Lied in 1880 but structural problems made that work less than totally successful.

The second symphony for Mahler was mentally a continuation of the first, which is purely instrumental. That D major work had hints of the composer’s preoccupation with mortality—he lost multiple siblings in childhood—but the concern is front and center in the C minor symphony. “I called the first movement Todtenfeier (Mourning Rite),” he explained to a critic. “It may interest you to know it is the hero of my D major symphony who is being borne to his grave, his life being reflected, as in a clear mirror… my Second Symphony grows directly out of the First.” Indeed, the earlier symphony hadn’t even been publicly heard when a draft of Todtenfeier was finished as a tone poem (free-form program music) in summer 1888.

Like Wagner, Mahler had a strong interest in literature and philosophy and the tone poem’s name probably came from a poetry collection translated from the work of an earlier Polish writer. One tale therein is autobiographical, recounting the suicidal despair of a jilted lover. Likewise Mahler adopted a Romantic approach in the two symphonies of having “written into them in my own blood everything that I have experienced and endured.”

Busy with his conducting responsibilities and outdoing himself with the audacity of the new music, Mahler put it aside for a few years. In 1891 he had the opportunity to play it through at the piano for Hans von Bülow, a major establishment figure Mahler worshiped. Bülow as a maestro championed Wagner, so it wasn’t unreasonable he might sympathize with Mahler’s aims. But the stark, almost shockingly despairing music went too far despite its more consoling moments. At various points Bülow could be seen covering his ears and pronounced an awful verdict: “If this is music, I understand nothing of music.” Bülow was known for theatrical disapproval—if he really didn’t like your piece he’d run outside and vomit in the street—but Mahler was surely dismayed.

Almost two more years passed until the composer, now in his thirties, found a suitable successor to his somber tone poem: songs. Taking texts from a collection of German folk poetry, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy’s Magic Horn), he selected moods and narratives conducive to his new sound world. Realizing he needed peace and quiet, he escaped to a lake at Steinbach in Upper Austria, renting five rooms for himself, his sisters, and confidant Natalie Bauer-Lechner who left invaluable written observations about Mahler. That summer of 1893 saw the bulk of work on the second through fourth movements of the symphony, mostly based on song.

Cynical in spirit, the third movement came to fruition first with a foundation in “St. Anthony’s Sermon to the Fish.” That song describes the aquatic approval of the saint’s audience only to resume their sinful ways in a clear metaphor for human congregations. More broadly the music evinces despair for the futility of mankind’s striving. Hence the inclusion of a fanfare by Mahler’s prematurely deceased classmate Hans Rott, a shining talent extinguished by mental illness, and an allusion to the wedding dance in Schumann’s song cycle Dichterliebe, relating the poet’s despair as his beloved weds another—a similar theme to the first movement’s origins.

Very different is the major-key second movement, a genial and comforting dance whose themes Mahler had conceived years before. The vibe is Schubertian, almost cozy, to the point that Mahler realized how jarring a contrast it makes with the opening funeral rites. He suggested conductors take as long as five minutes before proceeding to this movement. Highlights of scoring here include a soaring cello countermelody that reportedly made some Viennese players later go overboard and exceed its delicate effect. At another point the strings play the opening theme pizzicato (plucked) in a well-judged variation. Mahler even considered asking the violins and violas to hold their instruments like guitars as some of his French contemporaries requested in their music. Maybe that could have prevented Claude Debussy walking out of a subsequent performance, so offended was he by its simplicity!

The fourth movement is a mesmerizing song for alto soloist with orchestra in the style of a deathbed prayer, containing a quasi-hallucination of an angel as gatekeeper over the soul’s destiny. It is not certain when Mahler knew this short song would fit into the symphony’s overall plan.

Although he considered the finale by this point, he was uncertain what to do and needed to return to conducting that fall of 1893. Fortuitously for the symphony, Hans von Bülow died the following year and Mahler attended the service, hearing an unseen choir intone a text about resurrection by the eighteenth-century poet Friedrich Klopstock followed by the ringing of church bells. He was thunderstruck and rushed home to complete a plan for his finale containing the same text plus words of his own, following Wagner’s tradition as double author. Now lit with inspiration, he composed even in the thick of the opera season and a short score was finished by June 1894. Back at Steinbach, he had a tiny shack constructed and outfitted with a piano on the gorgeous lakefront to be his oasis where he resumed the titanic finale. It is now a one-room museum.

Despite his ambivalence toward providing explanations for his music which inevitably run the risk of trivializing it, Mahler couldn’t help but try to facilitate acceptance of his demanding creations. At various points over the years he commented on the imagery associated with certain movements or passages, some of which are now detailed along with the text of the final movements. It is important to remember the long time period over which the symphony was designed, so these impressions don’t necessarily lead seamlessly one to the next, and there are many passages of music probably unconnected to any comments yet no less vivid for that.

I. “We stand by the coffin of a well-loved person. His life, struggles, passions and aspirations once more, for the last time, pass before our mind’s eye… our heart is gripped by a dreadfully serious voice which always passes us by in the deafening bustle of daily life: What now? What is this life— and this death? Do we have an existence beyond it? Is all this only a confused dream, or do life and this death have a meaning?—And we must answer this question if we are to live on.”

II. “the echo of long past days in the life of the man borne to his grave in the first movement— ‘when the sun still smiled on him.’”

III. “The experience behind the Scherzo I can describe only in terms of the following image: if, at a distance, you watch a dance through a window, without being able to hear the music, then the turning and twisting movement of the couples seems senseless, because you are not catching the rhythm that is the key to it all. You must imagine that to one who has lost his identity and his happiness, the world looks like this— distorted and crazy, as if reflected in a concave mirror.”

O little red rose!
Man lies in greatest need!
Man lies in greatest suffering!
How much rather would I be in Heaven!
I came upon a broad road.
There came an angel and wanted to block my way.
Ah no! I did not let myself be turned away!
I am of God, and to God I shall return.
Dear God will grant me a small light,
Will light my way to eternal, blissful life!
—From Des Knaben Wunderhorn

Arise, yes, you will arise from the dead,
My dust, after a short rest!
Eternal life!
Will be given you by Him who called you.
To bloom again are you sown.
The lord of the harvest goes
And gathers the sheaves,
Us who have died.
—Friedrich Klopstock

O believe, my heart, oh believe,
Nothing will be lost to you!
Everything is yours that you have desired,
Yours, what you have loved, what
you have struggled for.
O believe,
You were not born in vain,
Have not lived in vain, suffered in vain!
What was created must perish,
What has perished must rise again.
Tremble no more!
Prepare yourself to live!
O Sorrow, all-penetrating!
I have been wrested away from you!
O Death, all-conquering!
Now you are conquered!
With wings that I won
In the passionate strivings of love
I shall mount
To the light to which no sight has penetrated.
I shall die, so as to live!
Arise, yes, you will arise from the dead,
My heart, in an instant!
What you have conquered
Will bear you to God.
—Gustav Mahler

Klopstock’s Enlightenment-era poem is not used in its entirety, and Mahler’s addition is conspicuous for avoiding theological specifics. His graphic description of events in the finale makes clear a divergence from the fearsome judgment of Christian orthodoxy. He was not an academic or theologian and felt no obligation to profess a unified, consistent belief system. Unlike the other movements, the finale contains tone-painting, or musical illustrations of specific 2022-2023 SEASON 59 happenings. Its first sounds are those of chaos just as in Beethoven’s ninth symphony, one of its models, as Judgment Day arrives. After confusion and (sur)realization, the great summons is heard in a guise much like a Jewish shofar, or ram’s horn, which Mahler would have encountered as a boy in the synagogue. (He was later baptized for greater acceptance in society circles.) Enormous percussion build-ups indicate an earthquake leading to the raising of the dead: “…graves spring open, and all creation comes writhing out of the bowels of the earth, with wailing and gnashing of teeth.” The undead enact a sinister and implacable march.

A striking effect is achieved with offstage brass (a technique familiar from opera), and “the trumpets from the Apocalypse call;—in the midst of the awful silence we think we hear in the farthest distance a nightingale, like a last quivering echo of earthly life.” After the Earth has thus been suitably leveled, the chorus at last enters with its message of redemption, barely audible. The remainder of the movement is uplifting, almost deliriously so at times. “A miraculously mild light penetrates us to the heart— all is still and blissful. And behold: there is no judgment; there are no sinners, no righteous ones, no great and no humble— there is no punishment and no reward! An almighty love shines through us with blessed knowing and being.”

Mahler had tried out the purely orchestral movements of the symphony at a March 1895 concert thanks to his friend Richard Strauss pulling some strings for him. It was probably only that practice that allowed him to triumph over his migraine in December when the complete work was performed. His follower and champion Bruno Walter recalled years later: “To this day I can see him… on the exceedingly high and far-from-steady podium, pale as death, his superhuman willpower conquering his pain as he conquered performers and audience.” While most of the audience was indeed persuaded, some critics carped about the untraditional format for a symphony.

Mahler’s style changed in the fifteen years that remained to him but he tellingly chose this symphony as a farewell to his eventual base of Vienna even in 1907. Its extraordinary boldness of subject matter is matched by deliberately chosen means, using the largest possible group of strings and augmented personnel including seven percussionists. Mahler’s experience as a practical musician meant he understood the exact way to notate rhythms and tone colors to achieve maximum vividness. The experience of his “Resurrection” is not easily forgotten.