Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Mahler "Unfininished Symphony"

Happy Birthday, Mr. Boulez!

Mahler: Adagio from Symphony No. 10
Mahler: Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth's Magic Horn)
Happy Birthday for Orchestra

An amazing performance celebrates Pierre Boulez's 85th birthday. As a counterpoint to a post earlier this week, I am not generally one for adagios, preferring works with a faster tempo. But the structure of the adagio from Mahler's unfinished Tenth Symphony, kept things interesting; the piece was certainly a bit haunting very much soulful. Part of the intrigue for me came from the opening with only violas playing to the closure with a single pluck from the strings, as if to say "I'm done"

My feelings towards Des Knaben Wunderhorn are decidedly mixed; I thought it was well performed particularly with a nice balance of vocalist-to-orchestra but with the exception of Revelge (Reveille) I didn't find myself particularly enveloped by any of the movements. Revelge has an interesting, almost manic, texture and I was impressed by the strings, particularly their use as a subtle percussive resource.

This was another concert that highlighted why live classical and recorded classical really can't be compared--there was tremendous dynamic range from the incredibly quiet light tapping of bows during Revelge to the sustained trumpet note during the adagio.

The evening finished with a few remarks from Messrs. Welser-Most, Hanson, and Boulez and with an orchestral rendering, perhaps the best I've ever heard, of Happy Birthday. I was struck by the fact that 45 years ago Mr. Boulez made his American orchestra conducting debut in the same room.

This evenings concerts were being videotaped, with a rather impressive number of apparent seat kills. I'm not sure when this may see the light of day, but I may be visible in the audience (on the box level, stage right, with a violin lapel pin) if anyone wants to attempt to play a game of "Where's Lincoln".


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