An Italian conductor, a Swedish contralto and a Siberian soprano.

Here is Mahler’s programme note for the last movement of his Symphony No. 2, included in Gustav Mahler: Erinnerungen und Briefe by Alma Mahler (trans. Basil Creighton):

We are confronted once more by terrifying questions.

A voice is heard crying aloud:

“The end of all living beings is come – the Last Judgment is at hand and the horror of the days of days has come.”

The earth quakes, the graves burst open, the dead arise and stream on in endless procession. The great and the little ones of the earth – kings and beggars, righteous and godless – all press on – the cry for mercy and forgiveness strikes fearfully on our ears. The wailing rises higher – our senses desert us, consciouness dies at the approach of the eternal spirit. The Last Trump is heard – the trumpets of the Apocalypse ring out; in the eerie silence that follows we can just catch the distant, barely audible song of a nightingale, a last tremulous echo of earthly life! A chorus of saints and heavenly beings softly breaks forth:

“Thou shalt arise, surely thou shalt arise.”

Then appears the glory of God! A wondrous, soft light penetrates us to the heart – all is holy calm!

And behold – it is no judgment – there are no sinners, no just. None is great, none is small. There is no punishment and no reward.

An overwhelming love lightens our being. We know and are.

(Mahler had converted to Catholicism because, as a Jew, he was barred from becoming Music Director of the Vienna Opera.)

Alma Mahler records that Debussy walked out during the second movement of this symphony at its first Paris performance. He said later that it was too much like Schubert.

Fuck Debussy.

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