Mahler's No. 2 is a poem of life and death, a religious and
spiritual study of immortality. The vigorous and solemn start leads quickly to a fearful
explosion, presenting us the heroic and tragic state of life. As he wrote to Alma
Schindler, his bride:
we stand by the coffin of a beloved man, his life, struggle, suffering and hope passed last time though our eyes, and now in this serious and deepest shocked moment,..., a dreadful sound grasps our hearts: what now? what is this life - and this death?... is it only a gaunt dream, or is there a meaning behind...?
It comes with an Andante to the melancholy recollection of his youth and lost innocence...
The spirit of irreligious, in the vision of disorder, casts doubt on himself and the God. The world and the life becomes a phantom, the disgust grips him with icy fist and bites on him until the shout of despair.
In the long expectation, in the primordial light, a naive voice sounds in the ear: I am from God, and to God I will return! dear God will give me a light, will light me to eternal, blessed life!
The earth is quivering, the solemn tone bursts from the grave:
Rise up! my dust, after brief rest!......
What was created must perish, what has perished, rise again! ......
It is not the final court, it is not evil, nor right, not punishment, nor appraisal, it is merely the feeling of life that lights us with blessed knowledge and existence.