Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony has exerted a talismanic influence on the Sydney Symphony Orchestra ever since Otto Klemperer’s legendary performance in September 1950, when Mahler’s music was essentially unknown, even in his own Vienna.

Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s new Chief Conductor Simone Young, chose the work to reopen the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall (what other choice could there have possibly been?) after a two-and-a-half-year closure for acoustic and aesthetic redesign, protracted by the pandemic. It was an occasion to be savoured: the impressive green shoots symbolising the resilience of civilisation, optimism and creative vibrancy in the face of the pandemic.


Simone Young conducts Mahler 2 as the Sydney Symphony Orchestra reopens the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, 2022. Photo © Daniel Boud

Mahler once declared that a symphony should embrace all the world and he certainly achieved that in this work: his rather idiosyncratic eschatology “embraces” everything from its sublime celestial culmination to lost innocence, scabrous irony and sardonic commentary. At this point, I should mention how, in the new acoustic, this irony sounded so much more acute on the woodwinds and the shaded brass playing, now burnished, now refulgent – a...