Monday, May 23, 2011

Support Your Local Orchestra! Or, In Which the Mahlerjahre Catch Up With Me

I think I have been to more Mahler within the past twelvemonth than I had previously heard live, ever. There was a bone-shaking 8th Symphony with Gergiev and the Mariinsky; Colin Davis, Bostridge, and Röschmann with Des Knaben Wunderhorn; Thomas Hampson singing the Kindertotenlieder (not blogged, but an intelligent, sympathetic, searingly direct performance); and James Levine and the Met orchestra with Das Lied von der Erde in what was, even for them, superlative form. And today, I ventured out for a concert of the New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble with songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn and the 4th Symphony. I am glad to have gone, and very glad to have discovered the NYSAE.  And I must and will praise the audience, who coughed discreetly between movements and applauded only after the conductor lowered his baton (yes! truly!) In fact, I may have been The Bad Audience Member; my concert-going companion told me that I fidgeted noticeably in the second half.  Sorry. I would offer to make penance, but I think I've already been punished enough by the auditorium's seats.

Are you sensing a "but" coming, Gentle Readers?  Let it begin this sentence: "But where were the sex and death?" Conductor Timothy Hutto seemed to have good rapport with the orchestra, which played, on the whole, quite competently. There were some technical issues with the horns, I think, which sounded muddy to me; and the warm, humid hall was certainly doing the strings no favors. I had forgotten how charming the poem for the soprano (here Danya Katok) in the last movement is; but it is also dark and bloody in the second stanza, and cheerfully sensual elsewhere, and anything but tame.

The first half of the concert featured the Wunderhorn selections: "Nicht wiedersehen!", "Ablösung im Sommer," "Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt," and "Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen." I liked Christopher DeVage's warm baritone, and he sang the first selection with moving melancholy.  What I missed was the moment of shock brought on by the vicious twist in the narrative.  The final duet was sung with tenderness; but it seemed remarkably chaste.  I wanted more wildness. I wanted more sensuality.  What about death, desire, and madness?  This is Mahler: shouldn't he always be at least a little dangerous?


  1. The best a rendition of Mahler without "death, desire, and madness" can be is a technically good performance - which doesn't seem to have been the case either. :-P

  2. I like the Wunderhorn recording that Thomas Hampson put out a few years ago. He definitely captures its nuances and range of emotions.

    I'm currently brushing up on Mahler, as I'm going to the Lieder von der Erde next week (starring Kaufmann and Joswig; am freaking out a little on that front) and want to know what I'm getting into. Part of me wants to go in fully prepared, and the other wants to go in knowing nothing so that I have no quips with the music. You saw a performance of it, didn't you?

  3. [Advice to Christie: IF you know Mahler's music (never jump out of nowhere into Mahler! :\ ), just read the lyrics and give them a thought. They are most interesting Chinese poems. If you feel too tempted, listen to the music as well; but do not forget that doing so, you won't have the pleasure to listen to it for the first time live. You will surely give more value to it though. Kaufmann's rendition must be thrilling!!]

  4. @Placido Zacarias *sigh* Yes, well... they weren't bad, but I don't think Mahler is their rep!

    @Christie I am a fan of Hampson's Mahler interpretations as a general rule; he's not afraid of understatement where appropriate, which I enjoy. Plus there's the line, and the text, and and and... :)

    Vicarious freaking out is occurring!! Extrapolating from my own experience (first live Das Lied this Jan with Levine; there's a link in this post) there's no danger of you not being overwhelmed, in the best way possible of course. Who's conducting when you're hearing it? My own favorite recording is the one with Fritz Wunderlich and Christa Ludwig under Klemperer if you're looking for one to listen through.

  5. @Lucy-The conductor is Stefan Malzew; the pianist is Robert Leonardy. According to the website, they're also singing some Mozart and Mussorsky, and "Night on Bald Mountain" seems to be taking a good chunk of time. It's going to be a fantastic evening. Thanks for the rec; I love Christa Ludwig and so will probably track down her version.

    I'm wrestling with my inner fangirl on whether or not to get the man's autograph after the concert, if he comes out. I have this horror of giggling at him like a teenage girl. Of course if I don't, I may just hate myself forever.

    @Placido Zacerias-Thanks! I'm familiar with Mahler, though not as much as I should be. Definitely going to read the poems before I go.


Start a conversation!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...