Thursday, September 10, 2015

Prom 49, 2015: Mahler - Symphony No. 6

Saturday 22-August-2015

Mary decided to make this a "corporate event" so we treated a number of her colleagues to an evening of culture. We had a loggia box which seats eight and smuggled in a small picnic with us.

I was anticipated something quite gloomy given Mahler's reputation but I found it much more enjoyable than I had expected.

The reviews were variable and two both singled out the brass for disapprobation. Skipping over the first half of the concert (Brett Dean’s Dramatis Personae) this is what two reviewers had to say about the main piece:

Seen and Heard international: Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Bring Magnificent Mahler to the Proms.
"And so to Mahler’s Sixth Symphony. Here the sheer orchestral perfection of the Boston Symphony shone through, with perhaps an odd exception: the solo horn player, James Sommerville, too often sounded just barely in control of his instrument and at other times tended towards approximation.
If the opening march was blunted somewhat, one listened with awe at so many aspects of this first movement: the stunning, clarion first trumpet of Thomas Rolfs, the sweet solo violin of concert-master Malcolm Lowe, the superb trombone trudge of the coda against heavy, low strings, and throughout the glowing oboe solos of John Ferrillo. Nelsons’ Mahler is heavily gestural and, yes, atmospheric. He also has a superb rapport with this orchestra; subtle tempo manipulations in the second movement were minutely managed, with Luftpausen both natural and precise."
Full review...

BachTrack: Prom 49: Boston Symphony Orchestra misses the magic in Mahler.
"So to Mahler’s Sixth Symphony. Standing at nearly four times the length of Dramatis Personae, and requiring one of the repertory’s largest orchestras, here it found a very unlikely friend: the Albert Hall’s acoustic. The BSO is a truly magnificent orchestra, and the sheer sonic richness produced by innumerable string desks, nine horns, and a brass section on very high risers meant this huge empty space felt fuller than I have ever heard it. Even better, everything was miraculously clear; Mahler’s orchestrational prowess deserves some credit, but warrants the highest praise for finding such a perfect sound even in this troublesome acoustic.
Unfortunately, the whole was more than the sum of its parts. Perhaps the biggest issue was the balance of the orchestra; the brass was far too loud most of the time, entirely drowning out the strings and woodwind, with the principal trumpet’s extreme vibrato and excessive volume simply too much from start to finish."
Full review...

The Prom finished relatively early as there was a second, late night prom following. So rather than go straight home several of us went for a beer at the nearby Queens Arms hidden down a back street mews with a decent range of beers.

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