Wednesday, June 28, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: Mahler Symphony No. 3/LSO

Just in from the Times of London:
First Night Reviews
By Hilary Finch at the Barbican (6/29/06)
4 out of 5 stars

Buoyant from their barn-storming Shostakovich in St. Petersburg, the apparently indefatigable players of the London Symphony Orchestra braced themselves for one of Mahler’s most ambitious symphonies: the one that dares to confront the great god Pan head-on.

Paavo Järvi was charged with reanimating the primeval forces of the Symphony No. 3 — and his keen ear, eye for detail and rigorous baton certainly set the sap rising. The presence of Pan was felt from the first deep inbreaths and outbreaths of horns and trombones. Järvi worked the music’s great lung to maximum effect by making his baton rein in each breath, weighing and measuring every pulse. The listener was kept in a state of suspended anticipation.

In the symphony’s first part, ensemble was kept tight and taut, and orchestral sunbursts were laser-bright. Järvi encouraged his players to be tactile: what we heard, in this long awakening of Pan, was the whirring of wings, the ticking of insect life, the bright babble of birds as “Summer marches in”. He also made us aware of the virtuoso variations of this movement: a march constantly reinventing itself for all of 40 minutes.

The second part of the symphony, in which Mahler tunes in to the flowers, the animals, to night’s heart of darkness, to the angels, and finally to love itself, also balanced myopic detail and long-sighted vision to near perfection. Järvi made the minuet naive, folksy, with quizzical little violin solos from the leader Gordan Nikolitch; and the offstage posthorn in the third movement was a true Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

The Finnish mezzo Lilli Paasikivi gave voice to Nietzsche’s words from the deep midnight. She seemed a little in awe of it all, slightly unsteady at the start, then austerely intense of focus. A contingent of boys from King’s College Choir, Cambridge, was on hand to add their angelic bell chimes to those of the ladies of the London Symphony Chorus — who sang, open-voiced and open-hearted, from memory.

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