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HomeTheatreMarkus Stenz conducts Mahler in Cardiff – Seen and Heard Worldwide

Markus Stenz conducts Mahler in Cardiff – Seen and Heard Worldwide


United Kingdom Mahler: BBC Nationwide Orchestra of Wales/Markus Stenz. St David’s Corridor, Cardiff, 17.11.2022. (PCG)

Chris Inventory receives Royal Philharmonic Society award (c) Yusef Bastawi

Mahler – Symphony No.9 in D (1909)

I’ve famous on many events that interpretations of Mahler’s symphonies are likely to fall between two extremes. Conductors of what one may dub the ‘Haitink faculty’ have a tendency to emphasize the fundamental unity of Mahler’s formal symphonic strategy, sometimes to the extent of firming down a number of the extra quirky traits of his orchestral sounds. The opposite excessive, the ‘Solti/Bernstein faculty’ (one takes these titles for comfort from the pioneers of Mahler efficiency in the1960s), stresses the emotional content material of the music and offers full rein to Mahler’s directions for shrieking woodwind, trenchant brass and so forth. The previous faculty, giving priority to what different critics describe as musical priorities, appears to me to overlook a substantial quantity of the purpose of the Mahler’s writing. As an skilled conductor, Mahler would have been nicely conscious of the customarily idiosyncratic results he was specifying in his scores. For instance, when he instructed the horns or clarinets to lift the bells of their devices in the direction of the ceiling, he was risking the very actual chance that they might exit of tune. Conductors disregard his rigorously detailed directions at the true peril of emasculating the music. However, one ought to be barely cautious about his specs within the Ninth Symphony, which he by no means had the chance to conduct in public after which to make changes to the directions on the web page.

To guage by John Quinn’s review of Markus Stenz’s recording of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in 2014, he appeared to assign the conductor firmly to the extra ‘symphonic’ model of Haitink and his followers, whereas acknowledging Stenz’s willingness to indulge the composer in a few of his extra attribute calls for. This was much like what Thomas Søndergård adopted when he carried out this orchestra in its final efficiency of the symphony on this corridor in February 2014. What turned obvious very early on this traversal of the rating, nonetheless, was that Stenz has considerably modified his strategy over the intervening years. Repeatedly he positively inspired the woodwinds to shriek out as if in ache, at climaxes dominated by the shrill sounds of piccolo and E-flat clarinet; the trombones to provide a rasping reverberation to their decrease notes which dominated the entire of the orchestral texture; or Lenny Sayer to challenge his bass clarinet gurgles with a goblin-like sense of enjoyment.

This was Mahler conducting at its most frenetic and most Bernsteinian, treating the music as a private assertion of irony, anguish and agony which appeared positively aggrieved. There have been instances when this resulted in a sure fragmentation of the shape, particularly within the second motion when the waltz-like passages pressed urgently ahead in distinction to the extra relaxed Ländler textures elsewhere. The Presto coda to the Rondo-Burleske third motion took off like a bat out of hell. However, the Adagio finale, after a weighty starting and a surprisingly pressing acceleration within the central part, turned virtually utterly becalmed some two minutes earlier than the tip; the low cello strains light into virtually complete inaudibility and the Adagissimo coda for muted strings was refined virtually to the purpose of extinction. Will probably be fascinating to see how far the BBC engineers can mirror these excessive dynamic contrasts within the corridor when the efficiency is broadcast. The programme knowledgeable us that it’ll characteristic on Radio 3 in live performance, though no date was given.

Will probably be evident from the foregoing that I might not at all times want to hear Mahler’s Ninth performed on this ultra-histrionic trend, though it labored nicely within the context of a stay efficiency. The conductor’s method, beckoning and beseeching his gamers with expressive gestures, introduced again determined recollections of Bernstein (albeit with no sweeping baton, and no would-be Olympic athletic excessive jumps). A few of Stenz’s extra sudden tempo changes appeared to result in some orchestral unsteadiness and or tiredness, however on the entire the orchestra responded nicely to his lead and clear intentions. And it’s certainly higher to listen to Mahler at full stretch on this operatic method than diminished to neutered good manners suited to the supposedly extra rarified environment of the standard live performance corridor. The Prommers would have cherished it, and certainly the viewers right here cheered the efficiency to the rafters. It was odd to provide the work with none coupling (and due to this fact no interval) and maybe this perceived brief measure could have deterred some folks from attendance; the stalls had been surprisingly thinly populated for a Mahler efficiency on this corridor. However it’s laborious to see what different merchandise may presumably have measured up towards an earth-shattering iconoclastic efficiency like this. Will probably be very fascinating to see the way it sounds within the chilly mild of day over the radio airwaves.

Earlier than the live performance, Chris Inventory, the principal percussionist of the BBC Nationwide Orchestra of Wales, was offered with an award from the Royal Philharmonic Society for his work with the promotion of orchestral music in disadvantaged areas of Patagonia, which originated from the go to the orchestra made to the area in 2016.

Paul Corfield Godfrey

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