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CLASSICAL  December 2005

CLASSICAL December 2005

Subject:

Mahler 3 at Kennedy Center

From:

Mitch Friedfeld <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 14 Dec 2005 21:25:30 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (54 lines)

Posting here instead of to the Mahler-List, which is on hiatus due to,
ahem, bad behavior.  [What did you do, Mitch, what did you do??  -Dave]

James Conlon conducted the Julliard Orchestra in Mahler 3 in a nearly
sold-out Kennedy Center Tuesday night.  I was wondering how this was
going to turn out -- would the soloists be top-class?; would there be
enough depth in the sections?  -- but shouldn't have worried: this was,
after all, far from a "student orchestra." Yes, they might have lacked
those last decibels where they are needed, especially in the two explosions
in the first movement.  And not every solo was note-perfect.  But it
didn't matter: these "kids" played the heck out of it.

Conlon, a Julliard alumnus, started the program with an excellent talk.
Explaining that Mahler was trying to portray life as it progressed from
the mists up to the angels and beyond, he said, "But this Creation has
no Adam and Eve, no Darwin, no Intelligent Design."....  pause, then the
KC audience erupted in laughter and applause.  He finished his fifteen-minute
talk with the warning, "Now buckle up, here we go." Conlon guest-conducted
the NSO last year and he will be back with the orchestra in a month or
two -- he warned the audience to read the booklet notes carefully, as
he would be testing us when he returns -- so it looks like he is being
considered as a candidate to replace Leonard Slatkin when the latter
steps down after next season.

The Trombone Concerto in the first movement was note perfect.  I
wondered what audience members who were not familiar with the symphony
were thinking about the subdued bass drum solos that bring the music
to a halt a couple of times.  The two explosions in the first movement
needed just a bit more oomph; for my money, nobody rivals Horenstein in
the runup to these sonic events.  Conlon scheduled an intermission after
the first movement -- "Mahler did it that way...once," he said -- which
gave the audience perfect justification to express their delight in a
totally satisfactory first third of the symphony.  But I was leery: if
the kids couldn't be totally convincing this early on, would they have
the chops to finish the rest of the symphony convincingly?

I shouldn't have worried, as they seemed to get stronger as the piece
developed.  Conlon did not take the new-wave Bird of the Night oboe
slides that Rattle and Abbado have made de rigeur.  Which left the
highlight of the evening, the posthorn solo.  It was not note-perfect,
the soloist committing a couple of mini-cracks.  And it was played on
a fluegelhorn, not a posthorn.  So what was so great about it?  It was
off-stage, which I think is standard practice but I'm not sure if that's
in the score.  The distant acoustic mellowed out the solo into something
breathtakingly atmospheric.  It was really excellent.  The symphony
finished off its journey to "All the Old Familiar Places" appropriately,
with the Julliards pounding out those final chords with roof-shaking
conviction.  They really did seem to get stronger as they went along.

Tremendous performance by all concerned, including the childrens' and
womens' choirs.  And with tickets costing $20 and $28, the bargain of
the year.

Mitch Friedfeld

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