Mahler 2

Boulez is an important curious conductor his studio recordings are often sonically dazzling and emotionally clinical, but live he is intense. Mahler 2 last night was an example of this. It moved along and was musically involving but seemed a bit emotionally distant for a time. Then, as the scherzo movement went along, and especially as the long finale began, I realized that he had a large-scale view of the work that was paying off. And payoff it did. A spectacular final movement, with excellent pace and modulations of tempo. The Westminster Symphonic Choir was terrific and the soloists were stupendous, Michelle DeYoung and especially Dorothea Roschmann, who is new to me but has a beauiful, commanding voice.

So far, this cycle in concert seems refreshingly old-fashioned, There’s the old-school sound of the orchestra, but also a refreshing and direct view of the music. Barenboim and Boulez are certainly looking for emotional insight and communication, but they are not trying to present a new case for Mahler. Mahler presents himself, there is so much there that always seems new and that we have yet to understand. So they are just playing it, as if this was the 1920s and the musicians decided to see what this Mahler guys was all about. There is a non-polemical sense of renewal that is very exciting. The concerts have been thrilling so far and the audience has been going wild. Nice moment during the 4th or 5th ovation when the concertmaster sort of forced Boulez up onto the podium to take a bow. Bravo maestro.

Tonight, Mahler 3 with Boulez back at the helm. I’m starting to feel tired already!


Author: gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.