The Second Symphony by Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler’s Lieder aus des Knaben Wunderhorn are steeped in the country atmosphere of peasant life. Yet they depict starkly contrasting worlds

Brahms’ good friend Theodor Billroth may claim that Brahms’ Second is ‘nothing but blue sky, rushing rivers, sunshine and cool, green shade’, but this more pastoral and serene symphony is not without drama and a Beethovenian grandeur.

In the collection of folk song lyrics Des Knaben Wunderhorn by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano from the early 19th-century, Gustav Mahler found a treasure trove of stories, moods and peasant wisdom that not only inspired him to create numerous songs but also had an impact on his early symphonies. Nursery rhymes, nature poetry, satire and tragic tales of the soldier's life were all given a place in a series of orchestral songs with which Mahler gave new impulses to the German Lied and to the ballad as Schubert and Loewe had previously conceived them. He was driven not by nostalgia for early romanticism, but rather the hard, sobering truth of the human condition. The acerbic satire of Des Antonius von Padua fischpredigt, the inexorable tragedy of Der Tamboursg’sell and Das irdische Leben and the folk sentiment of Rheinlegendchen suggest a new artistic awareness, on the threshold of expressionism.

In Mahler’s Wunderhorn-Lieder we hear the German soprano Barbara Senator, who has regularly appeared as guest performer at the Semperoper Dresden and at Glyndebourne, along with the Austrian bass-baritone Josef Wagner, who has become an established name in the house. All of this will be guided by the baton of maestro Alexander Joel, the first guest conductor at Opera Vlaanderen.


  • Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
    A selection from Des Knaben Wunderhorn
  • Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
    Symphony no. 2, opus 73
Length: ca. 2 h 10 min  

Discover our team

Alexander Joel
Barbara Senator
Josef Wagner
Symfonisch Orkest Opera Ballet Vlaanderen

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