Audio: Mahler: Symphony No. 2, ‘Resurrection,’ 3rd movement

The third movement of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony (which the Pacific Symphony plays this week), a scherzo, is an instrumental version (and expansion) of a song he was writing at the same time, “St. Anthony of Padua’s Sermon to the Fish.” The song text comes from “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” (The Boy’s Magic Horn), a collection of German folk poetry. Here’s a performance of the song, by the great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. The translation of the humorous poem is below.

St. Anthony arrives for his Sermon
and finds the church empty.
He goes to the rivers
to preach to the fishes;

They flick their tails,
which glisten in the sunshine.

The carp with roe
have all come here,
their mouths wide open,
listening attentively.

No sermon ever
pleased the carp so.

Sharp-mouthed pike
that are always fighting,
have come here, swimming hurriedly
to hear this pious one;

No sermon ever
pleased the pike so.

Also, those fantastic creatures
that are always fasting –
the stockfish, I mean –
they also appeared for the sermon;

No sermon ever
pleased the stockfish so.

Good eels and sturgens,
that banquet so elegantly –
even they took the trouble
to hear the sermon:

No sermon ever
pleased the eels so.

Crabs too, and turtles,
usually such slowpokes,
rise quickly from the bottom,
to hear this voice.

No sermon ever
pleased the crabs so.

Big fish, little fish,
noble fish, common fish,
all lift their heads
like sentient creatures:

At God’s behest
they listen to the sermon.

The sermon having ended,
each turns himself around;
the pikes remain thieves,
the eels, great lovers.

The sermon has pleased them,
but they remain the same as before.

The crabs still walk backwards,
the stockfish stay thin,
the carps still stuff themselves,
the sermon is forgotten!

The sermon has pleased them,
but they remain the same as before.

Trans: Emily Ezust

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