[Find out more about the music with my symphony preview.]
|The SLSO assembles for the Mahler 2nd
I loved everything about this performance, with certain moments standing out as emblematic of Mr. Denève's masterful command of the work.
There were many other wonderful details to be heard, all attesting to Mr. Denève's deep understanding of this music, right down to the most polished details. The Ländler theme of the second movement radiated wistful charm and the later pizzicato repetition by the strings was sheer gossamer. The sharp tympani attack that opened the third movement was striking and the orchestral "death shriek" at the end of that movement was hair raising. A writer for the BBC Symphony once described this as "the whole orchestra blowing/hammering/playing the heck out of their instruments," which about sums it up.
And then there was the calming fourth movement, with mezzo soloist Tamara Mumford both acting and singing the role of the small child insisting on admission to heaven with impressive conviction. She was a last-minute substitute for an ailing Kelley O'Connor, but you wouldn't have known that from the quality of her work. Principal Oboe Jelena Dirks blended with her lovingly in the first verse.
That's a lot of baggage for one movement and it can feel episodic, but it all worked perfectly Friday night. Soprano Joélle Harvey sang the "O glaube, mein Herz, o glaube" ("O believe, my heart, believe") verses with feeling, and the chorus sang with irresistible clarity and force. That final, full volume statement by the chorus and orchestra of Mahler's belief in the redemptive power of love was a glorious thing to behold.
This was, in short, a "Resurrection" that grabbed me from the start and didn't let go until that ecstatic finale.
Best of all, the SLSO musicians were all at the top of their game. The principals in every section played their solo moments perfectly. I was especially taken with Principal Flute Mark Sparks and Ann Choomack on piccolo in their fifth movement "birdsong" solo, but everyone covered themselves with glory. The horns and brasses, in particular, have never sounded better. All things considered, I'd rank that "Resurrection" up there with my all-time favorite, the one Leonard Slatkin conducted with the SLSO back in 1983. It was recorded digitally for Teldec back then. It's out of print, but you can still find it on Amazon.
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra season continues this Friday at 10:30 am and Saturday at 8 pm with a pair of Romantic blockbusters: Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 and Elgar's Symphony No. 1. Edo de Waart will be at the podium and Joyce Yang at the keyboard. Performances take place in Powell Symphony Hall in Grand Center.