Music lovers will be thinking big this weekend — a full-body sonic immersion of Gustav Mahler’s great Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection.” Mahler loved to use a full orchestra, large choruses, and operatic soloists in his symphonies, and “Resurrection” is no exception. After an exceptional season that began last fall with pianist André Watts playing Rachmaninoff, included a collaboration with State Street Ballet on Stravinsky’s Firebird, and last month brought in violinist Nigel Armstrong for a rousing rendition of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, the Santa Barbara Symphony draws its 60th anniversary season to a close with this extensive choral collaboration, which includes the Santa Barbara debut of two rising soprano stars. If anyone requires reinforcements, it’s Mahler, and the S.B. Symphony has called in the ranks.
First, there are the 100-plus singers of the Santa Barbara Choral Society. The S.B. Choral Society happens to be in the crosshairs of its fortuitous milestones this year, celebrating not only its own 65th anniversary but also Maestro JoAnne Wasserman’s 20th year at the podium. Second, Nathan Kreitzer will bolster the ranks with his 25 elite singers from Quire of Voyces, who are just rebounding from their own impressive resurrection-themed program, Songs of Remembrance. Mahler keeps this large choral ensemble in wait until the last 20 minutes of the finale, when the collective voices will be brought out to add a fresh aura of transcendence and glory to the program.
The power of the more than 200 musicians on stage may be sufficient for Mahler’s grand double fortes, but not for poetic moments like the fourth movement, “Primeval Light,” which requires an ethereal solo mezzo-soprano. Since her 2005 Carnegie Hall debut, Tamara Mumford has moved in high musical company and is currently touring with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. But Mahler also calls for a soprano soloist, and the talented Jennifer Black will lend the high notes. In short, beauty and bigness will be in league for a “Resurrection” that promises to wake the dead.
The Santa Barbara Symphony performs Mahler’s “Resurrection” at the Granada Theatre (1214 State St.) on Saturday, May 18, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 19, at 3 p.m. (KDB 93.7 FM will be broadcasting Sunday’s concert live.) Call (805) 898-9386 or visit thesymphony.org.