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Second Symphony

Written by: DM Thibeault
Second Symphony

Music has a very unique ability to move its listeners. Music can make one feel things like nothing else can. There is no doubt in my mind: music was created by God and He communicates through it; He reveals Himself in it.

Years ago, I discovered the Second Symphony of Sergei Rachmaninoff—one of the most beautiful pieces of music I had ever heard. At the time, I did not know anything about the composer, the Second Symphony, or even the fact that it is one of the most popular melodies ever written. All I knew was how beautiful the music was. This week, I heard the Second Symphony again.

This time, I did not stop myself at the beautiful melancholy of the music. Instead, I wanted to understand why it made me feel that way.

In 1897, Rachmaninoff’s First Symphony was played for the first time in public. Unfortunately, the work was poorly received, and the composer fell into a depression that lasted many years.

After resigning from his job as the conductor of the Bolshoi, and due to the increasing political tension in Russia, Rachmaninoff—a man of faith—decided to move his family to Dresden, Germany. There, he was forced to compose if he wanted to provide for his family. It was in Dresden, in exile from his country and plagued with doubt, that the Russian wrote one his most significant works: the Second Symphony.

The Second Symphony of Rachmaninoff is full of hope and redemption. Just like the story of its composer, who wrote out of his own brokenness. If you close your eyes and listen, you can hear God whisper “everything is going to be alright”. When I first heard the symphony, I did not know why I was so moved. Today, I know: God is in every note of the melody.

The King David in the Old Testament was also very familiar with brokenness. After he committed adultery and murder, David was confronted by the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12). David repented, and out of it came Psalm 51. David was in a position to muffle the story, but decided to face it. He could have made sure that we never talk about it ever again, but instead, he wrote a song about it and now we sing it.

The Apostle Paul was also very familiar with brokenness. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, he addresses the subject:

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Paul, who wrote many books of the New Testaments and planted multiple churches around the Mediterranean, could have bragged a lot about his success and achievements. Instead, Paul made sure to recognize that Christ’s love appeared in his failures.

Like Paul, David and Rachmaninoff, we all have our own story of brokenness. I sure do. Recently, I realized how my desire for love, attention, and appreciation was what drove me for so many years. I realize how broken I was when I started dating my wife, Ally. Our relationship made me realize how I was manipulating others to make me feel better. I loved when people I did not know would stop me at the grocery store to tell me they saw me on TV or heard me on the radio. I was trying to hide my satisfaction with false humility, but really, it was just feeding my ego.

One day, only two years after moving to Winnipeg, I did not get a job that I was really hoping for. It crushed me. I guess it was a crack that God used to start a work in me. God showed me what it means to rest in Him. He showed me how to surrender everything. He showed me what made David and Paul so special.

If you ask me today where I am at, I will tell you that I don’t know. But maybe for the very first time in my life, I really rest in God. What is coming next? I’m not sure, but I like to believe that God is writing my Second Symphony.

– DM Thibeault

2 Comments

  • Darryl Friesen says:

    DM! I couldn’t agree more—there is such pain and longing in Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony that gives way to total, unabashed freedom and life in the 4th movement!! When that lively dotted rhythm starts up at the beginning of that last movement, I always just want to dance—yes, DANCE!—at the triumph of joy over heaviness. It is one of my favourite pieces of all time!

  • Nicholas Tenszen says:

    DM!

    That’s a well woven summary on growth, and I’ll echo Darryl’s enthusiasm for the second symphony. It’s the one classical CD that we have in the car, and the girls will say “piano, piano!” When they want to hear it.

    My favorite is hard banging keys Op.3 No.2 up and down, raw and powerful, then out of that chaos comes such émotions of hard fought victory.

    It often hits the cry of my heart, when words fail and the spirit gives utterances.

    Thank you, I had no idea he was a believer.

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