Got your attention? Did I grab a few search engines somewhere? Well there’s no actual sexual content here. Just my undying admiration for the last 5 minutes of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.
I have a lot of favorite choral moments from my singing history. The 4th day of In the Beginning. The Warlich moment in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, or the last sung phrase of the MacMillan Passion we recently performed. And, hell, let’s just thrown in pretty much all of the Verdi Requiem and the Brahms Requiem. And there’s a vast library of choral music I haven’t sung yet (you know… being just a bass and all.) But the ending of the Mahler is still my all-time favorite moment in choral singing. Really, just listen…
I love love LOVE everything about this piece. Some singers like to complain that we only sing for the last 10 minutes or so of the piece, in the fourth movement, when everything is all over. Not me. I wish I could sing this piece every weekend. It encapsulates some of the greatest parts of being a choral singer. The full dynamic range, from ppp to fff (this clips is just the fff part). The full note range for a bass, from a low almost impossible to sing B-flat up to the high G above middle C that represents tenor territory. (Thank goodness the low B-flat is ppp and the high G is fff.) The orchestra throwing in everything they got, with bells loco and the brass fanfares soaring over everyone’s heads. The quiet parts set up the loud parts.
The best part, by far, is standing in the middle of it all. Singers are totally taken along for the ride. The hair stands up on the back of your neck. It’s impossible NOT to feel passion stirring within you as you lustily sing. This is the orgasmic part – this steady build up of sound, layer upon layer, wave upon wave, as the chorus builds up to the final triumphant proclamation, WE WILL RISE AGAIN! Auferstehn! Ja, auferstehn! I get goosebumps even listening to a recording.
Oh, and no recording does justice to Mahler’s 2nd, either. Most have to do some sort of dynamic compression, boosting the quiet and tempering the loud to save your speakers. Even still, you’re always fiddling with the volume knob, straining to hear the quiet initial chorus entrance, and trying not to be blown away by the majesty of the piece’s conclusion. It’s an avalanche of sound that can’t be represented by any recording, only by BEING there in the audience, or (better yet) on the risers.