Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C-minor, “Resurrection”, contemplates the human experience. The composer raises questions about the purpose of life, the inevitability of death, the possibility of afterlife, and the probability of rebirth.
“Resurrection” was the Santa Cruz Symphony’s 5th and last Classic Concert of its 60th Anniversary Season, and one of its most life-affirming productions. Mahler’s profound messages were powerfully transmitted by the Santa Cruz Symphony (SCS), featuring incredible local and guest talent conducted by Music Director Daniel Stewart. Through the combination of individual technical excellence and harmonious group cohesion, the musicians and vocalists gave listeners a meaningful experience, echoing Mahler’s philosophical content through a soulful performance.
The Santa Cruz orchestra communicated the existential questions and emotions of Mahler’s musical language with a nuanced ebb and flow, theatrically conveying light and heavy moments of life and death, and the nostalgic moods of human beings. The many refined string and woodwind musicians revived the more cheerful moments of melody, while brass and percussion heightened “Resurrection’s” depth and intensity with precise, dramatic outbursts.
Urlicht, the German folk poem that Mahler set to music, was beautifully expressed by Metropolitan Opera soloists Sara Couden (Mezzo Soprano/Contralto), Gabriella Reyes de Ramírez (Soprano), and the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus, directed by Cheryl Anderson. Anderson has been collaborating with SCS for 26 years and was recently named 2018 Artist of the Year by the Santa Cruz County Arts Commission. The hushed, unified choral voices emerged supernaturally, and the rich, haunting vocals of each star soloist conveyed a breathtaking sense of the mystical.
In the final movements, the distancing of offstage musicians dispersed throughout the SC Civic Auditorium made the experience of an otherworldly afterlife all the more dramatic and magical. Assistant Conductor Nathaniel Berman led musicians remotely positioned in the foyer, and horns located in high corners of the venue joined the performing forces on stage to fill the space with resounding acoustical effects. The fusion of 98 instrumental musicians, 81 choir members, and soloists captured the uplifting tone of Mahler’s suggestion of a return to life in a triumphant, transcendent finale.
Although the 60th Anniversary Season has come to an end, SCS has ignited a renewed passion for experiencing significant classical music from around the world on local stages. Packed audiences and official proclamations recognizing its cultural contributions indicate how SCS productions have stirred and enlivened the community through exceptional music.
Film fans can look forward to Santa Cruz Symphony’s Special Event Concert on Saturday June 2, 2018, featuring “The Movie Music of John Williams”. Tickets available HERE.
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